Calling out a narcissist as a pathological liar is not as important as pin pointing the type of lying that the narcissist does that really cuts us to the core: future-faking. By this, I mean that the narcissist talks about or hints at a future together to get what he wants from us right now. Indeed, his innate ability to future-fake is probably the narcissist’s most effective tactic for managing down our expectations and the biggest reason for why we stay in a relationship that is obviously so bad for us. In other words, it’s the depth and breadth of the lie that we become tethered to because it speaks to our heart’s desires…to what we’ve wanted all along. The narcissist, of course, knows this and thus will use his knowledge of our heartfelt desires to string us along until the end of time. It’s the part of the narcissistic pathological relationship agenda that lends itself to the fact that there is no boundary that a narcissist will not cross to get what he wants in the moment that he wants it.
Now, mind you, what I’m talking about here goes far beyond the periodic broken promise because a periodic broken promise can be easily forgiven when followed by a promise kept. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the perpetual broken promise that carries the allusion of a promised future. It’s these types of broken promises that hurt the most because the lie itself is intensified by the authenticity of the way it’s presented. The narcissistic lover will spin us a future via promises containing all the words we want to hear. They’ll spin us a future via mirroring back to us all the things that we want from the relationship. They get us to stay or to come back or to wait for them to come back by faking a future with us that ultimately never happens. Future-faking is so much worse than ordinary lying because it shows how much of a pretender extraordinaire the narcissist really is.
For the first few years of my 13-year relationship, I made it so easy for my ex-boyfriend to future fake that he barely had to say a word – and he knew it. If he even alluded to doing something together in the “future”, I’d ride the fucking wave of hope right up to the shoreline where he’d gleefully slap me off my surfboard. Up until that point, of course, he’d have gotten whatever he wanted which was usually to stroll back in after several weeks of silence (with no repercussions or questions asked) or to have hot sex not after but during a fight or to distract me from catching him in a lie. For all of the above, he had no problem saying whatever it took to get the job done. Eventually, I grew defiant and combative whenever he even mentioned a future event because I knew it would never happen but that didn’t stop him from future-faking because to deliberately deceive me was… well… just too much fun!
Here are some of the ways that a narcissist will use future-faking to keep us in his queue of narcissistic supply:
- Future-faking during the idolize/love-bombing phase to make us think that this person really wants the same things that we do in life. This type of future-faking creates what I call the soulmate effect. Example: “Oh My God, that’s my favorite band too! Look, they’re coming in 4 months. I’ll get us some tickets – that’s a date!” or “You know, from the moment I saw you, I just KNEW we’d be together for a really long time” or “I can’t believe we like ALL the same things. I’ve never had that with anybody. YOU are the one for me.”
- Future-faking as a hoovering technique but only when we’ve had enough and have finally gone No Contact. Since a narcissist can typically lure us back with mere crumbs, future-faking is the emergency back-up in his bag of hoovering tricks. Example (by phone) “No, no no…don’t hang up! I wanna get married!” or (by text) “Hey it’s me. Look, I’m sorry. Let’s live together” or (in person) “Wait..look into my eyes. Can’t you see how much I love you? I want to grow old together.”
- Future-faking to end a fight. If, in the middle of a fight, the narcissist feels as if he may be losing, he’ll typically toss out some future-fakery to get you to relinquish control. Example: “Okay, okay..look, can’t we just stop this nonsense and get married or something?”
- Future-faking as part of conversation. Narcissists, as we know, thoroughly enjoy hearing the sound of their own voice and consequently will future fake just to keep the conversation going. Example: “Hey, I’ve been thinking that you could really help me start my business. What do ya think? Wanna do it together?” or “Remember when we talked about France awhile back. I think it’s time we started planning for that trip.”
The idea of writing about future-faking was actually provided to me by a lovely woman who, during a phone consultation, lamented the fact that her narcissistic ex would continually make meaningful plans and then vanish into thin air. Shortly before the final discard, during a peaceful moment, he’d even urged her to start planning for a trip to Paris for the following year – something they had both expressed an interest in doing together over the years. Excited, she went to work, making the plans, researching the details….getting ready for what would undoubtedly be a trip of a life time. The fact that this was his idea and that he appeared excited it gave her hope that he actually meant it…that despite his ridiculous and unexpected silent treatments, he obviously intended to be around for the future, for the TRIP. Unfortunately, this was not to be when, shortly thereafter, over something ridiculous and unrelated, he simply vanished never to be heard from again as if the plans were never made. To her, obviously, this was devastating and hard to wrap her head around. When I labeled his behavior as “future-faking”, she was shocked by the fact that, here again, was another universal behavior so typical of the narcissistic personality that there was actually a term to describe the nonsense. I remember feeling that same shock. It’s the kind of shock that prompts us to review and re-label so many moments from the relationship. It’s the kind of shock that makes us shake our heads in sadness, wondering why the hell we allowed ourselves to stay in the relationship beyond perhaps not the first but – hell – at least the second time that it happened.
Seriously, how many futures need to be faked before we realize that fakery is all it’s ever going to be? When does it become time to reconcile the blame? In my case, the answer to that would have to be thousands or 13-years worth or whatever number the last faked future was before he never came back to me. In all honesty, it took me years to not realize but rather accept that my ex’s ability to future fake was just that – an ability – and that he never ever planned to follow through with anything that took place in a future time beyond, say, the next ten minutes. I had realized plenty before that but coming to a point of acceptance was a whole other thing. To accept that the person we love is a future-faker means realizing and accepting the reality that this person is NOT normal and NOTHING about this behavior is acceptable. There ARE people in the world who mean what they say and say what they mean…but the narcissist that we love/loved is NOT one of them. Hindsight may be twenty-twenty, my friends, but let’s be grateful that it happens at all. What happens after that is up to us and all we can do is the right thing.