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How Narcissists Use "Future Faking" to Lure Partners

The real reason those fantasies of a wonderful future together never came true.

Key points

  • In future faking, a narcissist courts a partner with a detailed but unlikely vision of a future together.
  • In some cases, narcissists don't intentionally fool partners. They may just move too fast without thinking about how they might disappoint.
  • Narcissists may also use future faking as a substitute for real conversation.
Dragon Images/Shutterstock
Source: Dragon Images/Shutterstock

Most normal relationships follow a fairly predictable pattern. If the couple’s religious views do not forbid it, the couple dates, has sex, meets each other’s friends, moves in together, and gradually gets to know each other’s family. Over time, they either become more serious about the relationship and get engaged or they decide that they are not well suited and break up. There are variations on this basic pattern, but generally, most people do not make serious plans for a future together until they both feel fully committed to the relationship. This usually takes a year or two.

However, people with narcissistic personality disorder do not do a normal courtship. They are so focused on winning you over that they speed everything up and increase the intensity. It is a bit like dating on adrenaline. Everything that a normal couple does in the course of a year, they do after a few dates. Narcissists rarely stop to assess whether the two of you are really a good match. Instead, they use a variety of strategies in an attempt to get you to fall in love and commit to them before they have fully committed to you—even though they are telling you that you are the love of their life and their perfect mate. It is only after you are fully committed that they actually decide whether you are what they really want. This in itself is really bad, but it gets worse.

One of the cruelest courtship strategies that some narcissists use to reel in a new lover involves making elaborate and detailed plans with you for a future life together. Most people have heard about “narcissistic love bombing,” showering someone with over-the-top compliments and gifts, but not everyone is aware of “future faking.”

Note: I am using the terms narcissist, narcissistic, and NPD as shorthand ways to refer to someone who qualifies for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.

What is future faking?

Future faking is a courtship strategy in which narcissists talk to you in elaborate detail about all the wonderful things that the two of you will do together in the future—the cute little restaurant you will absolutely love, how the two of you will explore the most romantic cities in the world, or even how many children the two of you will have and what to name them. All the while, they sound very enthusiastic and sincere.

What makes it future faking, and not just planning a future, is that none of this is likely to ever happen. Instead of being on the road to bliss, you are now on the road to disappointment. What usually occurs is that shortly after narcissists believe that you are fully committed and in love with them, everything starts to change. Now that the chase is over, the good times diminish.

Narcissists are not very good at sustaining a normal relationship. During courtship, they created positive relationship drama. Now they start creating negative relationship drama. Instead of praising you, they start pointing out your flaws. You will feel a sudden coldness and indifference to your feelings. If you stay, you are likely to be devalued, ignored, or discarded. Future faking is cruel because it is exactly what it sounds like, a big fake. What initially brought you great happiness is likely to end up as a series of traumatic disappointments.

What does future faking look like?

Imagine you are ready for a serious relationship and you meet this very appealing person on a first date. Everything moves fast. By your second or third date, this new person seems wildly in love with you. He or she praises everything about you. Your new lover has already decided that the two of you are the perfect couple and to your surprise, starts planning a future with you.

You may be a bit hesitant. After all, you barely know this person. You are thinking: “Isn’t this too soon to make this type of commitment?" But, on the other hand, it is nice to finally be in the company of someone who seems to really like you.

This is all done so convincingly that you to start to buy into the vision and begin to imagine a possible future together—a future with no more bad dates and no more wondering whether your date really likes you as much as you like him or her. So, you decide to go with the flow and see what happens next. You do not want to risk missing out on true love by being too skeptical.

Now this person whom you hardly know starts describing the great times the two of you will have this summer. Your lover describes in vivid detail all the amazing things the two of you will do together—the romantic walks along the beach, the trips you will take, and even relatives and close friends that he or she wants you to meet. You get caught up in it and invite this person to be your plus one at a family wedding in two months’ time and your new lover immediately agrees. You breathe a sigh of relief and think: “They must be serious. Why would they agree to go to a family wedding, if they weren’t in love with me?”

Here is an example of how future faking might sound:

You have never been to Paris in the fall? I can’t wait to show you around. I know Paris like the back of my hand. It is the most romantic of cities! I have an idea. Let’s make the trip longer and end up in Rome. There is nothing more beautiful and atmospheric than the Tivoli Fountain lit up at night.

How common is narcissistic future faking?

Not all people with NPD start planning an entire life together after a first date, but it is very common. How common? Well, I hear about it frequently from my clients who are dating, especially those clients who are meeting people through dating apps. It is common enough for people to talk about it online and for lots of non-narcissistic people to be wondering about how wary they need to be when their new lover starts to plan a future together.

What is wrong with future faking?

Even when people with NPD are not consciously trying to fool their new lover, most of the time this type of premature planning ends badly. Narcissists jump into the deep end too fast. Narcissists are often quite impulsive and uncritically go with their current emotion without thinking it through.

In addition, because narcissists are incredibly self-centered and lack emotional empathy, they are not worrying about the possibility of raising unrealistic expectations and then disappointing you. The reality is that as soon as they get bored or start to discover your normal human failings, that will be the end of the relationship. Narcissists who future fake will renege on every promise they made you—including being your date for your cousin’s wedding.

Why do narcissists engage in future faking?

The line between sincerity and insincerity is nearly invisible for people with NPD. In the moment that they are enthusiastically planning a future with you, they might actually feel sincere. However, they are not factoring in that they should wait before sharing their fantasies about a rosy future with you. They feel free to change their mind at any moment. When their infatuation wears off and they lose interest in fulfilling the future plans, they can easily rationalize the change in their thinking. Here are some of the things narcissists tell me about these situations:

I meant it when I said it. It just didn’t work out between us. Why blame me?

He is not who I thought he was. He fooled me. I don’t owe him anything.

She should have realized that I was just trying to be entertaining.

It was fun while it lasted.

Sometimes narcissists use future faking intentionally as a seduction technique. This is particularly cruel because they know from the beginning that the glowing picture that they are painting is totally fake. They have no intention of actually doing any of the wonderful things that they have promised to do with you. They are simply exploiting your desire for a loving, long-term relationship and saying anything that they think will achieve their aims.

Another reason for future-faking is that many people with NPD are poor conversationalists. They tend to develop a set of stories or strategies that they believe show them in a good light and use the same ones with almost everyone. Elaborate future faking can be a substitute for real conversation and a way to avoid actually showing real interest in the other person.

Summary

Future faking is a courtship strategy that involves painting a glowing detailed picture of the wonderful future that the two of you will have together that is actually unlikely to happen. Narcissists use future faking to enjoy themselves, entertain someone they are interested in for the moment, and as a way to get sex and validation. Even when they start out believing their own hype, the other person is likely to end up hurt and disappointed.

Adapted from a Quora post.

Facebook image: Dragon Images/Shutterstock

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