Narcissists & The Art of Future-Faking

wolfCalling out a narcissist as a pathological liar is not as important as pin pointing the type of lying that he 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.

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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:

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.”
  3. 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?”
  4. 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.”
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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.

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84 Comments

  • WB

    October 11, 2017 at 8:13 am Reply

    It took me over 20 years to figure it all out. She had me dancing to her tune for years. I thought I was going mad, on a whim I searched for “lack of empathy” and the light finally switched on. She had NPD. Recently she had mentioned another guy that she had met in a bar, I instantly told her that what she was doing was called triangulation and asked her why she did it? She of course didn’t have a plausible answer, I had obviously hit a nerve because she went in to full silent treatment. A few weeks later she’s back but now I am completely aware of her MO and decide to call her out on everything with the result that once again I am persona non grata. She really is a wretched human being.

  • SinglePigeon

    August 17, 2017 at 2:58 pm Reply

    OMG…unbelievable!! This describes my relationship of the past three (wasted!) years TO A TEE! Every time I would attempt to leave him, he’d take me shopping for an engagement ring he never intended to buy. Every time I raised doubts about his sincerity, he’d drag me across the country to family events to show how “serious” he was. He’d set his OWN deadlines for engagement (“I don’t want to waste MY time, either…!” he’d moan) and blow through them like a drunk driver blowing through stop signs. There was always some kind of excuse, usually that he was ABOUT to propose but I ruined it by either bringing it up or “failing to improve” in one of the areas on the forever changing and growing list of things he wanted me to improve upon for my “own good”. When I finally wised up and moved out, he tried to turn things around and acted like HE was the one who broke up with ME and told me he had all the money saved up for an engagement ring and he wanted to take six weeks to “get things in order so we can have a brand new start” when he came back to propose. He said exactly what any woman would want to hear (before she realized he was full of baloney) but all it did was piss me off further because it made me realize he thought I was stupid enough to still believe all his pretty, candy-colored lies. I went No Contact cold turkey and have not heard from him in two months now (whatever happened to “six weeks”? Where’s my ring? LMAO…!) and I cannot wait to tell him where to shove it WHEN he comes crawling back (although I truly hope he doesn’t…after learning far more about him and his motivations/manipulations in his absence than I ever did in our three wasted years together, he completely repulses me and I would not piss on him if he were on fire). The only thing I am sad and scared about is the possibility that I will find another one just like him – definitely more cautious and probably a bit paranoid as I head back into the dating world again!

    • Zari Ballard

      September 28, 2017 at 2:38 pm Reply

      Hi Single Pigeon,

      Don’t be overcautious about dating again. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are so many polished narcs out there, we will never really recognize them right off the bat. The only thing we can hope for is that we get out quicker. Use everything you have learned to make better (not necessarily “perfect” but better) decisions in the future.

      Zari xo

  • Jenny

    July 27, 2017 at 2:15 pm Reply

    This post really got to me because it is exactly what my narcissistic ex had been doing to me until just recently We divorced in 2011 and I finally got to a place I was really happy and no longer thought about him. Then both my parents passed away in 2015 withing 7 weeks of each other and he swooped in… Before I knew what had happened, I was in a quasi FWB relationship with him, with a “maybe in the future” a permanent romantic relationship “hook”. Another 2 years wasted, and I’ve finally come to my senses. He always told me he never lied, and being a very manipulative “word smith”, I learned that I had to listen exactly to what he said, not what I THOUGHT he said. He even got so confident and secure of my love for him, that he started sharing some of his ability to manipulate with words. For example, after telling me he would never sleep with my friends out of respect for, he said “You got to listen more carefully. I said I’d never “sleep” with your friends. I didn’t say I wouldn’t have sex with them.’ And then he smiles. Of course he never went ahead and promised not to have sex friends, even when I called him on the fact that the phrase “sleep with” meant “having sex”. Before reading your post, I had no idea this is a common manipulative technique narcissists use on their partners. So thanks. I feel much better, even if I my love was manipulated by him. I no longer have that nagging doubt that he “might really love me”, which was his way of hoovering me back into being a source of narcissistic supply for him.

    • Zari Ballard

      August 2, 2017 at 10:53 pm Reply

      Hi Jenny,

      I am so sorry about the loss of both your parents…and only 7 weeks apart?? It doesn’t surprise me in the least that a narc would swoop in…it is what they do…it is who they are. I’m grateful to have been able to shed some light on the situation. These people are so twisted and they will future-fake and waste your life away if you allow it. Narcissists know right from wrong, they just don’t give a shit and this is why nothing he does away from you will ever be conducive to the “relationship” you and he have together. He’ll always be up to no good….Stay strong, sister:)

      Zari xo

      • Jenny

        August 6, 2017 at 6:39 pm Reply

        Thanks Zari.

        The reason why this article really hit home for me was because this was my narcs favorite phrase when it came to talking about a relationship with me:

        “Who knows what the future will bring.”

        Haha! Seriously. These guys really do betray themselves through the things they say.

        But I think even this was a carefully thought out and deliberate action on his part, not a Freudian slip. It was a all game to him. Our little relationship dance. He wanted to see just how aware I was of his tactics and word manipulation. He was bored and this was fun for him. I think he loved how he could tell me the “truth” – that a relationship with him would always remain in the future – knowing that this isn’t what I “heard” tho. This way he could say “I didn’t lie to you. I told you the truth. You just didn’t listen” Which was really just fancy double speak on his part. He knew full well what I had understood him to mean because I was smart enough to tell him exactly what I heard him say. But he did nothing to correct any misunderstandings I had.

        I finally got tired of hearing it because it meant nothing, and told him so. He stopped. I figured it out so it wasn’t fun any more I guess.

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