You might be enabling a narcissist if you keep falling for promises and assurances which remain unfulfilled. Believe it or not, there really are people out there who keep their word.
What is future-faking?
When over-promising or empty-promising becomes a pattern, it is known as “future-faking.” Future-faking is a classic sign of manipulative behavior and is often associated with narcissism.
The good news about future-faking? Once future-faking is understood by partners of narcissists, it often becomes relatively easy to outsmart a narcissist.
How do I know if I have enabled a future-faker?
Have you been enabling a narcissist’s future-faking? See if any of the following excuses sound familiar:
- “Reliability isn’t her strong point. When she stands me up, I feel terrible. But, wow, when she does show up, it’s amazing! She always says she’s sorry.”
- “He promised to let me know if he was coming home late, and he did it for a little while, but we all forget things eventually, don’t we? It’s just not his personality to remember his commitments.”
- “I know her heart’s in the right place, even if we both know that her promises to change are wishful thinking, at best.”
- “For my Christmas gift, he promised he’d wash my car, inside-and-out, every week, for an entire year. I knew it wouldn’t happen, but how can you call something so sweet an ‘empty promise’?”
- “When she tells me she’ll be available on a certain day, I know better than to count on it. I’d just be setting myself up for disappointment. Bringing it up would just cause an argument.”
- “He said he’d ask for school holidays off, but he forgot (again). It’s just not his style to plan ahead.”
- “She’s not lying, exactly. She just knows what to say to make me feel better when I doubt the relationship.”
- “He talks big, but he relies on other people (like me) to do the actual follow-through.”
- “I told her I didn’t want to grow old with someone who was so irritable. She knew she’d pushed me too far this time, so she promised she’d never hurt me again. She even cried and said she hated herself for not treating me better. She was back to her tricks the next week, but her promises comfort me when I think back on them.”
- “When I put my foot down about him borrowing my car without asking (again), he promised not to do it. We’d had this conversation before, but, hey, he’s got a lot on his mind. I guess he just doesn’t remember things as well as I do.”
- “I sometimes wonder if she deflects hard conversations by promising to marry me someday – she knows how much I want it.”
Do narcissists know they are making empty promises?
Some narcissists might consciously know that they’ll never follow through on the promise they’ve just made, but other narcissists may not have enough self-awareness to understand that their promises are empty. Future-faking is future-faking, whether or not the narcissist realizes what they are doing.
Empty promises create a pattern that is toxic to the formation of healthy relationships. Whether the narcissist is future-faking on purpose or on the fly, the behavior is still known as pathological lying by mental health experts.
I have let others down. Am I a future-faker?
We all fall short of our best desires at times. What’s the difference between letting someone down and future-faking?
The difference between your behavior and a narcissist’s behavior is found in the repeated nature of the overpromising. A narcissist leaves a string of unfulfilled promises.
You may have forgotten promises, too, but are they one-off events? If you forget an appointment, you might apologize and keep the appointment the next time. A narcissist who forgets an appointment might apologize (or might not) and is just as likely to forget the appointment the next time around.
The narcissist may or may not believe their own lies, but your belief in their future-faking strokes their ego. They want to believe they can make things better, that they can solve your problems, and that they are entitled to your support—even when they repeatedly fail to meet commitments they have made to you.
A narcissist is especially likely to use future-faking in moments of tension or conflict to turn the conversation in a way that suits them. A narcissist uses future-faking as a means of getting you to do something they want you to do.
Who tends to harbor more resentment – the narcissist or the enabler?
The enabler tends to harbor more resentment toward the narcissist than vice versa. The enabler may be so resentful that they dream of getting divorced and living independently, free of any obligations to any romantic partner ever again. The enabler doesn’t want to feel trapped again and is suspicious of future involvements.
The narcissist is often much more satisfied with the current relationship and only feels resentful at times when they are being directly challenged. If the narcissist’s relationship with you ends in divorce, the narcissist will likely enter a new relationship relatively quickly, with someone who acts like you used to act.
How should I confront a future-faker?
If you stop believing a future-faker, try calmly telling them that you don’t believe their next promise. They will likely lash out at you. They will blame you for expecting too much, for being over-sensitive. They will say that they tolerate the same behavior from you without complaint (“but now that you bring it up, I can say that you do the same thing to me…”).
The narcissist might blame you for giving up on the relationship or for making unreasonable demands. Or, he might promise that the overpromising will never happen again. He might love-bomb you in private or in public.
“Isn’t he great?” your friends will write when they see his promises to reform on Facebook, in which he gives you all the credit for being so patient with him. But the promised change seems to last for only a few days or weeks, and gradually you are back to square one.
Future-faking is a classic sign of narcissism. Once you recognize the pattern, you can manage a narcissist and end your part in enabling toxic behavior. Whether a narcissist is future-faking on purpose or subconsciously, this behavior is toxic, manipulative behavior that hinders the possibility of a healthy relationship. Defining future-faking helps many partners of narcissists break the pattern of manipulation.