“I’ll call you later,” he promised.
But he never did.

Though that scenario could happen for a number of reasons, it can also be a sign of future faking in its simplest form. With future faking, a person promises to deliver on something that you want in the future in order to get what they want. This behavior is very common with narcissists, but why? Read on for crowdsourced opinions from individuals who have had professional and/or personal experience with future faking.

Rev. Dr. Rick Patterson

Rev. Dr. Rick Patterson

Rev. Dr. Rick Patterson, the author of “Shame Unmasked: Disarming the Hidden Drivers Behind our Destructive Decisions” has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Western Michigan University and master’s and doctoral degrees in ministry from Western Theological Seminary. Web: rickpattersonconnects.com

Their needs are above all else

Future faking isn’t about getting something material for the narcissist in the present as is often suggested. A narcissist doesn’t insist they plan to marry you to get you into bed. You don’t need to be a narcissist to do that. Narcissistic needs are above all else, psychological and the driver is shame and self-hatred.

To understand the needs of the narcissist, it’s important to understand what sources the condition we call “narcissism.” Psychologists overwhelmingly agree that narcissism is not based on self-love, as common thought might suggest. Narcissism is sourced in self-hate, which is sourced in shame. Shame is the root supporting the weed of narcissism.

As such, a narcissist needs to soothe a powerful, often subconscious, and entirely psychic pain. Feelings of weakness, incompetence, and inferiority force the narcissist to find evidence that contradicts what they fear internally to be true of themselves. This is also why a narcissist can, with odd sincerity, claim the crowd that came out to see them was bigger than it was. The pain of self-hatred and shame they feel can even fool their mind into believing alternative facts as real.

So when the narcissist can manipulate someone even to the point of causing pain in that person, it soothes their burning soul like a wet compress on a fevered forehead. It momentarily assures the narcissist that they do have power – that they are not impotent as they fear. This soothing can take other forms as well such as overachievement, hyper-competitiveness toward self and others, and a burning need to belittle. If someone else looks small, the narcissist can feel a soothing relief that they are not the small one.

While the pain is psychic, the feeling of that pain, and the resultant euphoria when it’s momentarily soothed, is as materially real as scratching the poison ivy that just popped up on your arm. Sadly, the relief is just as fleeting, and the need to scratch again returns with equal vengeance. This lands the narcissist in an almost helpless and addictive cycle unless they have the courage (and awareness) to treat the illness and not just the symptom.

To bend you to their will

Future-faking simply means empty promises made by a narcissist to bend you to their will. It is one of the most destructive behaviors if you allow yourself to be trapped in lies. Narcissists love landslide wins that require fewer efforts. They will use your aspirations as your weakness to manipulate you and benefit from it. I think narcissists are inclined to future-fake because of how easy it is to build a future with words without action. Especially if the one who is future-faking you is close to you or someone you trust. Lies can be the safe-ground that gives you a little hope for your dreams.

Narcissists see this as an advantage to get the attention, time, care, or even financial gains that they can get from you. For someone who has been future-faked, it was physically and emotionally exhausting. You are putting your best efforts into your future that was written in lies. Because sometimes, it is easy to compromise your present if you know that your dreams depend on it.

James Pearson

James Pearson

James Pearson, CEO of eVenturing, one of the fastest-growing websites in the small business space.
Dr. Jaime Zuckerman

Dr. Jaime Zuckerman

Dr. Jaime Zuckerman is a Philadelphia-based licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of adult depression, anxiety disorders, and relationship issues. She speaks frequently on the topic of narcissism in relationships and is also a mental health contributor to several online publications, TV, radio, and podcasts. Find her at dr.z_psychologist

To exert control over another

“Future faking” is one of many manipulation tactics narcissists utilize to exert control over another in what is usually the early stages of an intimate relationship. It is a series of false promises made to another with the sole function to “hook” the partner deep into the relationship. It is a very subtle strategy that is often misinterpreted by their significant other as a measure of their commitment to the relationship.

Narcissists use future faking as a means to “lock-in” their significant other early on in the relationship by making exciting promises of a fairytale future they will never find elsewhere. It creates the illusion of a special bond and makes their partner feel unique, adored, and safe—so much so that it will act as a deterrent should they ever consider leaving the relationship, no matter how toxic it may become. This is often used during what’s called the “love bombing” stage, where the narcissist showers their partner with gifts, compliments, and false promises.

Future faking can look like:

  • Promises of marriage
  • Discussions of what your kids will be like, what their names will be, and so on.
  • Talks of moving in together early on.
  • Promises of vacations and other “big” plans

To seek the best

People who have narcissistic personality disorder are unable to relate to those closest to them through any lens other than their disorder. Much like brand new toys, a new relationship is always the best, most exciting thing ever and will surely last a lifetime. They will always promise the world to their partner, in the most effusive ways, when in reality, once the initial dopamine/oxytocin high wears off and the partner expresses their needs and no longer allows the emotional leeching allowed by their illusion, the narcissist will always withdraw back to their self-serving ways, which in their distorted worldview is a perfectly reasonable reaction.

Ken Eulo

Ken Eulo

Ken Eulo, Founding Partner of Smith & Eulo Law Firm.
Lynell Ross

Lynell Ross

Lynell Ross, Resource Director for Test Prep Insight, an online education resource company.

Hoping for a better future

Future faking is a manipulation that narcissists use to hook you in by making promises. A narcissist will keep you in line and doing things for them while they may promise you things like getting married and having children. All the while, they could be playing you, or even be married to someone else.

In a workplace situation, a narcissistic boss can promise to set you up for a big promotion or salary raise in the future, if you will just work longer hours, travel, or take on more work now. In most cases, a narcissist cannot be trusted to come through for you but can keep you working hard as long as you believe their lies and manipulation.

Future faking is a way for narcissists to keep you stuck hoping for a better future while giving up your needs to accommodate theirs. Make no mistake, a narcissist always puts their needs before yours and lacks the empathy to care about what you want or need.

Seeing how wonderful they are

For a narcissist, nothing really exists outside of the grandiosity of the narcissist’s image. Of course, that image can’t exist without someone to look at it and reflect it back. Narcissists have to know how to weave a story that keeps others close by, holding up that mirror so they can see how wonderful they are. In order to get this need met, they tell the partner grandiose things about what they intend to do—things that will keep the partner in the orbit and help the narcissist continue to get their desires for esteem fulfilled. It’s highly controlling behavior because it prevents the partner from being able to do what they would naturally do if they knew the narcissist was never going to fulfill those promises.

Michelle Lange

Michelle Lange, Assistant to Nick Bognar, LMFT. Nick Bognar is a licensed marriage & family therapist that specializes in couples therapy, trauma, men’s mental health, and codependency.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors are not necessarily affiliated with this website and their statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.

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