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Does your partner have a pattern of making empty promises they do not keep? Have you questioned if these promises will ever come true? Did you get caught up in a whirlwind of a romance that seemed too good to be true, and it was? If so, you may be in a relationship with someone who uses future faking.
What Is Future Faking?
Future faking occurs when someone makes a false promise about the future. This person says they will do something they have no intention of doing. Future faking is a manipulative technique people use to control another person in a relationship to get what they want.
The false promises, or faked future, usually relate to your emotional desires, which leads to a stronger tie or connection to the manipulator. They can create a distorted view of reality; the more you hear false promises, the more you believe they will happen.
When you ask about the fake future promised to you, the manipulator will likely offer some portion of what’s promised or respond with an even greater promise. This technique gives the manipulator greater control over you and keeps you hooked to the relationship.
Future Faking Examples
Example 1: Promises of something great in the future
You have a new dating partner. The relationship feels wonderful and magical, like you are in the most recent romance movie. You talk about your hopes and dreams for the future. Amazingly, this new partner wants all the same things, including that trip to Europe you have always wanted.
You spend time researching, buying travel books and watching travel videos. Your partner keeps promising, “We will go. I want to take you there.” More time passes, and this trip never happens. When you ask about it, your partner always has a reason. “I have a new boss at work. I can’t take the time. My mom is sick, I can’t leave the country. Let’s wait until after the holidays and talk more then.” You wonder, will we ever go?
Example 2: Promises of marriage
You have been dating your partner for several years. You talk about getting married, but it never goes beyond that conversation. Your partner says things to you like, “I want to marry you. I can’t wait to begin planning a future together. I want to grow old with you.” Several times, you even went to jewelry stores to look at rings.
The more you ask about it, the more promises you hear about how much your partner wants to be with you forever, and soon you will get married. Perhaps a proposal has happened, but your fiance will not commit to a wedding date. Again, you hear one reason or another for not setting the date. “After my promotion. We can’t do that until after my sister gets married.” You think about how you have dedicated several years to this relationship. You cannot leave it now.
Example 3: Promises of change
Your spouse comes home from work, often late, and does not help with housework or the children. You ask for help frequently. Sometimes, it turns into an argument. The conversations usually end with your spouse saying, “I will try harder. I will talk to my boss about not working so late. This weekend, I will work on that list.” The promises remain empty. You continue feeling the pressures and doing it all.
Example 4: Workplace promises
You are a hardworking, dedicated employee. Your boss tells you how much the company appreciates and values you. Your boss starts telling you how great you would do with a new position they are creating. The boss describes the job, the raise it will give you and the new title. You really want this position. You work longer hours, pick up extra responsibilities and even come to work on the weekend to show your dedication.
Months pass with no promotion or transfer to a new position. Your boss continues praising you for your hard work and tells you, “It’s going to pay off for you! That position is yours.” Whenever you inquire about the position, you hear vague answers like “As soon as they pass the new budget.” or “We’re just waiting for approval from the VP.” It gets to the point where you stop asking and keep working. You feel very defeated.
Narcissism and Future Faking
The word narcissism has become a more common word. A narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health disorder defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5-TR (DSM 5-TR). People also use the term in a non-clinical way, usually to refer to someone who displays characteristics and behaviors of:
- Seeking admiration from others
- Lack of empathy and consideration of others
- Blame others
Future faking is a common tactic used by narcissists. They may use future faking to get their partner’s attention and admiration. When they make promises of a fake future, and the partner responds by engaging, the narcissist feels admired and more secure. They continue using this tactic to keep you in the relationship. Narcissists usually lack empathy and do not consider how their promises of a fake future cause hurt and pain to others. Instead, their focus is on their needs and how to keep control of you.
Narcissists can use different tactics in their future faking, including:
- Love bombing: This tactic creates feelings that the person wants the same things you do in the relationship. It may consist of confessing deep feelings of love within a few dates, premature discussions of marriage or living together or naming the children you will have. Love bombing can involve discussing how this relationship is much more special than others. It can also include grandiose promises of trips, pointing out all the things you have in common and promises of exciting dates based on commonalities.
- Hovering: This tactic happens after you have finally set some limits, challenged the empty promises or left the relationship. Because the relationship with the narcissist has likely worn you down, hovering over you by dangling more empty promises tempts you to return to the relationship and drop any challenges or boundaries you discussed. The narcissist may use comments like “Please don’t go! I promise we’ll go on that trip together this summer!” or “Take my hands. Can’t you feel how much I love you? I want to marry you. I’ve been looking at rings all month.”
- In a fight: A narcissist needs to win an argument and will use almost any tactic, including offering you a fake future. Offering empty promises of a fake future can quickly give control of the fight to the narcissist. The narcissist may promise to help around the house more, look for a new job or spend more time with you.
- Just everyday conversations: The extravagant nature of the narcissist and the need for attention lead to the narcissist wanting to keep a conversation flowing. They use future faking to keep talking with you. They may create discussions based on what they know you want to do, places you want to go or your dreams.
The Harmful Impact of Future Faking
Future faking has long-term and potentially devastating effects on the victim. Combined with other forms of abuse in a relationship, it can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or trigger trauma symptoms when someone already has PTSD. Some people may develop signs of depression and feel hopeless or helpless about changing the situation.
It can lead to cognitive dissonance because of the confusing nature of being promised a future that never happens but believing it might. The victim might feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed for believing these promises. You might regret staying in the relationship for so long or feel a sense of loss.
Challenging or confronting the narcissist can also lead to a harmful situation. With a wounded ego, the narcissist may:
- Lash out at you
- Blame you for anything
- Gaslight you
- Insult, criticize and threaten until you back down
How To Protect Yourself
Protecting yourself from a future faker or a narcissist begins with recognizing some of the signs:
- What they say seems too good to be true.
- They are moving forward too quickly with the relationship.
- If you try to slow things down, they get upset.
- It feels like you are in a romance movie, novel or fairy tale.
- If you have a disagreement about future faking, they blame things on you.
- You have become isolated from friends or family members (maybe because of false promises).
- You left a job (maybe because of false promises).
- You spent money on promises that did not happen (ex: down payment on a trip or ring).
It is important to take steps to protect yourself:
- Recognize that future faking is a form of abuse.
- Recognize your partner is controlling and manipulating you.
- Read and learn more about narcissism (in a safe way that your partner cannot find).
- Slow down the pace of the relationship.
- Set dates and timelines regarding promises.
- Make a promise to yourself: How many times does a promise need to be broken before I see this problem?
- Hold your partner accountable for the broken promises.
- Keep track of the broken promises and review this list as a reminder for yourself.
- Set goals of what you want and write them down.
- Ask yourself how you can achieve your goals.
- Take steps to achieve these goals on your own.
- If you decide to leave the relationship, make a plan (do not write it where your partner will see it).
- Identify support people in your life and local abuse shelters.
- If you do leave, stop all contact when possible.
The most important step to protect yourself is to take action if you feel threatened. Call 911 or go to an abuse shelter or your support person. If you think you are in a relationship with a narcissist or someone who uses future faking, please reach out for help.
The Nobu app offers several different options that can provide support and assistance. You can access free mental health support, including learning coping skills, journaling prompts and goal setting. You can also connect to a mental health professional to help you during online therapy sessions. The app is available for download on the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.
Take Control Of Your Mental Health
- American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR).” 2022. Accessed September 4, 2022.
- Day, N. et al. “Living With Pathological Narcissism: A Qualitative Study.” Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation”, August 14, 2020. Accessed September 4, 2020.