Picture this: You’re on the perfect first date. The charming stranger sitting across from you orders you both another glass of wine with a wry grin, and as the waiter walks toward the bar, he starts weaving together a dreamlike description of the life you both might have together. You’re embarrassed at first—it’s almost too cheesy to take seriously.
But then you start hearing about an idyllic house in the countryside that you’ll purchase together, two small children, and your own art studio in the spare room. Somehow, this handsome stranger from a dating app has checked off every single box you have, over the course of a single dinner.
For some narcissistic individuals, spinning fantasies like this is a clever tactic called future faking, and it’s a powerful way to ensure that you remain spellbound and under their control. But despite all the manipulation and deception, people with narcissistic traits or even narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) have highly sympathizable reasons for this behavior, that arises from low self-esteem and fear.
So how can you be sure you’ll recognize future faking when it’s happening to you? This is often the most important (but hardest) step of understanding and getting out of a narcissistic individual’s web of control.
What Does the Term “Future Faking” Mean?
Future faking is a slang term for behaviors typically used by narcissistic people who want to manipulate someone else by constantly and convincingly:
- Showering them with love
- Overwhelming them with affection
- Casting romantic promises of a grand future together
As Kara Kays, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) at Thriveworks in Colorado Springs, CO explains, “future faking happens most often at the start of a relationship as the purpose is to build a quick connection. Further into the relationship a bond may already be established leaving the future faking less effective, and easier to identify if insincere.”
Future faking involves engaging in repetitive, exaggerated discussions of the future. The goal of these grandiose promises? To keep someone enthralled and remaining in a relationship with the narcissistic person.
Why Do Narcissists Use Future Faking?
Narcissistic people tend to use future faking as a way to manipulate the person they are in a relationship with. These individuals get a keen read on what someone may want out of a relationship, and spin a fantastic depiction of their shared future together in order to keep the person engaged in the relationship and to prevent them from leaving.
Narcissists take any sense of abandonment, large or small, as a very severe, life-altering event and are very sensitive to criticism. Thus, they will go to extreme lengths to avoid rejection and abandonment at all costs—and future faking can be a tactic used to avoid being alone.
Still, Kays points out that “future faking can be both intentional and unintentional. People are complex, inherently making relationships complex.” This means that the reasons for future faking behavior can be difficult to understand, and aren’t always malevolent in nature.
What Is the Reason for Future Faking?
The reason for future faking, as explained before, is to protect the ego and to avoid any real or perceived abandonment and rejection from a peer. People who engage in future faking to gain/maintain control of the person to prevent them from:
- Thinking of alternative future plans that don’t involve the future faker/narcissistic individual
- Having any original thoughts that might cause them to question the narcissist’s words and motivations
- Considering other partners
- Having to consider the possibility of being rejected
Even if their future faking storyline isn’t possible or realistic in any sense, people with narcissistic traits or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) tend to deny reality and have a hard time accepting the reality of their interpersonal relationships and social stature. Narcissists do this to avoid any perceived or real sense of rejection from others, as they lack the coping skills required to process rejection in a healthy way.
What Is Future Faking Before a Breakup?
Future faking before a breakup often occurs when it has been made very blatantly clear to both individuals that the relationship is not working. Any perceived change or even slight hint at abandonment and rejection can cause the narcissist to engage in this behavior.
Future faking is more commonly seen before a breakup, due to the narcissistic person realizing that they are losing control of their partner, or losing the relationship. If future faking isn’t effective, the individual may resort to gaslighting their victim.
Is My Partner a Future Faker? How Can I Tell?
Some key habits and behaviors to look out for in a partner include:
- Constantly telling and reinforcing the same storyline/ideas
- Inability to follow through with their grandiose promises
- Talking incessantly about the future and does not allow themselves to be interrupted
- Wanting you to identify with and approve only their preferences and view of the future that you could have together
- Rigid thought patterns about the future
- Responding to feedback and criticism with anger or spite, especially if it relates back to their future faking behavior
- Bringing up the future in a very specific way at least 3-4 times per week
It’s possible for a future faker to change their behavior, but if it’s tied to narcissistic tendencies or even narcissistic personality disorder, it’s likely that therapy or counseling is necessary. This isn’t to paint narcissistic individuals in a negative light, but sometimes, the thought patterns and insecurities that trigger this type of manipulative behavior are so deeply ingrained that they may not always fully understand or recognize that what they’re doing is wrong.
How Do You Respond to Future Faking?
One of the best ways to respond to future faking is to try your best to not get “sucked in” to the emotional spin cycle that it can cause. Instead, interrupt and reframe the conversation in order to process and regain your power in the relationship. Some ways of doing that is to:
- Take a deep breath
- Ask for a pause in the conversation
- Take a break (if you’re talking electronically)
- Switch topics
- Cut off communication with the narcissist or future faker
“Honest self-reflection can help a person clarify how they are feeling about what the prospective partner is bringing to the relationship,” Kays stresses. “If possible future faking scenarios are appearing early on in the relationship, trusting one’s own emotions and somatic responses will help identify red flags.” In addition, listen to what your close friends, family members, and other close social supports are saying. If they’re voicing red flags, it’s time to be reflective.
By following any of these tips, you can quickly and easily break a future faking conversation and disrupt the attempts to captivate and hold your attention indefinitely. This helps you remain in your own power and stay grounded. And if you find yourself trapped on a too-good-to-be-true first date with someone who is future faking—it’s entirely okay to excuse yourself and leave.