Future faking is one of the most prominent yet subtle tools used by people with strong narcissistic tendencies and other dark personality traits. Indeed, if you’ve had the misfortune to interact with a narcissist, you have certainly witnessed future faking in its most detrimental form. So what is future faking, how does it work, and what does it mean?
What Is Future Faking?
Future faking is when a person lies or promises something about your possible future in order to get what they want in the present. It could be as basic as promising that they will call you later, and then never calling. Or it can be promising to go on a vacation with you, and then never taking any steps to make that happen. Or even promising to marry you, carry you off into the sunset, and living happily ever after, all in order to make you complacent and to control you in the present.
In the hands of a skilled manipulator, future faking preys on your dreams and goals in order to fabulate a possible future so that they can string you along in the now. These promises are destined to be broken, and can be seen as a form of overpromising and underdelivering.
Essentially, the manipulator will take very little action, if any, towards keeping their promises. Instead, they will keep promising and using other forms of coercive control, passive and active abuse, until you find yourself in such a state that it is easier to go along with whatever the manipulator wants.
So future faking is, fundamentally, promising a future that the manipulator has no intention of acting towards, making promises that they won’t keep. Instead, they distort reality to get what they want from you now.
Examples of Future Faking
Your new boyfriend or girlfriend has swept you off your feet. You have so much in common. They must be the one! You really want to buy a house within the next year and so do they. You two decide to do it together. You both start looking at houses, talking endlessly of the perfect house, the perfect yard, and the perfect dog. Even babies!
As far as you can see, there are no clouds on the horizon and it is smooth sailing ahead. You fall more and more in love. Yet, after six months they have not saved up any money. In fact, you have found out that they are in massive debt but you’re not really sure why. They eat out all the time, buy expensive electronics, yet never seem to work. But you’re in love with them, and they promise that from now on they will change, start to save money, and you guys will have the house, the yard, and the dog—and babies! You decide that maybe this whole thing can wait. Love conquers all after all.
Your boss has promised you a promotion. They keep telling you that you are perfect for a new position opening up, with new opportunities, and an awesome raise and bonus. They know it is more attuned to your intended career path because you have talked about it with them several times over the past year. You are very excited and envision all the benefits that are just around the corner.
However, over the next few months, you find that you have taken on more responsibility in preparation for your new role but there have been no benefits. The next time you talk to your boss about it, she reassures you it’s coming soon. Eventually, you see other colleagues promoted but not you, and you’re not sure why. No one is answering your questions, but the promises keep coming. Eventually you stop asking questions, and your boss never mentions the promotion again.
How Does Future Faking Work?
Narcissists and others who possess manipulative tendencies lie, but it is the nature of the lie to pay attention to here. In this case, future faking speaks to our hearts. Our heartfelt desires, whether about marriage, children, work, happiness, traveling, fun times, anything really, and our heartfelt desires become weaponized in order to control us.
Eventually, the depth and the breadth of the lie keep you tethered to the manipulator. When you become wise to their broken promises, they may occasionally take some action to prove that it’s not as bad as you think. But as soon as you feel comfortable again, it is only more of the same.
This appeal to our emotions is so strong that it may truly fracture our concept of reality over time. By the time you have caught on, you may have sunk so much time, emotion, and energy into the relationship that you are unwilling and maybe even unable to disentangle yourself from the future faking spun around you. You simply go along with the manipulator because it is easier at this point.
The Consequences of Future Faking
This kind of manipulation is extremely harmful. Cognitive dissonance, self-erasure, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and of course, the feelings of loss for something that the manipulator never intended you to have all produce long-term, rippling consequences.
The manipulator may or may not believe their own lies, but your belief in their future faking appeals to their ego. If you stop believing them or call them out on it, they may lash out at you and force you into complacency. They may try to blame you and make you feel bad so that you would stay where you are. And if you become complacent, they will then know that they can get away with it. They will keep future faking until you don’t accept it.
What Should You Look out For?
Narcissists and other manipulators are good at lying and pretending. Be mindful and critical of anything anyone says that seems too good to be true. Whether it’s coming from a prospective partner, a colleague, a boss, a family member, or even a friend.
If someone habitually and repeatedly talks about the future in order to make you complacent now, ask questions and don’t let them distort reality. Observe if they work towards it, ask them to explain their plan, ask for updates, don’t accept too many excuses, and see if it’s going in the right direction.
If you see that it’s likely just lies with no substance behind it, it’s just future faking and you will never have it, so act accordingly.