By Dana Morningstar
This is when a narcissist talks about, hints at, or promises their target an ideal future together. The narcissist may future-fake by claiming that they want the same things from the relationship, or promise to change their abusive behavior.
Narcissists often go about future faking by gathering information about the target’s idea of a great future or perfect relationship from the early love-bombing stage, which often includes getting engaged or married, buying a home, settling down, starting a business, moving to a different area in order to get a fresh start (from their bad behavior), adopting pets or children, having a baby, or some other false promise (or worse, they actually do these things) in order to manipulate the target into a new relationship or into rekindling a broken relationship.
At first these actions may seem sincere. After all, who would talk about such deep commitments if they weren’t sincere? The narcissist may even turn their talk into actions and convince their target to buy a house, adopt a pet or a child, or move, and over time, the target may realize that they have become more trapped as a result of these actions—trapped because they now have a mortgage they can’t afford alone, or have started fostering (or adopting) a child, quit their job and moved, or otherwise committed themselves to the promise of doing these things as a team. Then they realize that the narcissist isn’t emotionally invested, and so the target stays out of guilt, obligation, or the inability to undo these actions.
What started out as the promise of an ideal future quickly turns into a hellish nightmare.
Example: Scott and Diane had only been on a few dates when Diane began feeling an intense soul-mate connection to Scott. They seemed to have so much in common, from the types of movies and music they liked to having a similar sense of humor and what they did for fun, to being entrepreneurial and loving big city life. A few weeks into dating, Scott began hinting about moving to New York and starting a restaurant. He also began talking about how great it would be if they started a family someday as they both wanted to home-school their children. Diane had never felt this way about anyone, and even though all this talk about marriage, children, moving to New York, and starting a restaurant seemed too soon, it felt so right. She decided to make the jump, and paid to move both her and Scott out to New York.
They quickly found an old restaurant for sale, and Diane took out a large loan to fix it up and open shop. Shortly after they rehabbed and opened up the new restaurant, Scott’s behavior began to change. He began showing up late, and when he was there, he was often flirting with the waitresses or customers. Diane began to wonder if she’d made a mistake by combining her life with Scott. She brought up her concerns with him, and he denied his behavior, saying that he was just being friendly and social. Several months later, she found hidden credit card statements that Scott had opened up in the business’ name, showing that they owed quite a bit of money—none of which she knew anything about, and none of which was for business expenses. When she went home that night to confront him about it, she found he had cleaned out their apartment and drained their bank accounts. Diane began to realize that Scott had sold her on a dream and delivered a nightmare.
Example: Dave had caught Samantha cheating. When he confronted her about it, she said that it was because he’d been working late and hadn’t been spending enough time with her. She also blamed the guy (Jerry) that she’d been seeing on the side, saying that he’d been pursuing her relentlessly at work and finally wore her down. Even though this was the third time he’d caught her with another man, Dave wanted to believe that things could be fixed between them. After all, Samantha seemed really sorry. She vowed that she’d do whatever it took to earn his trust back, and was an ideal partner for the past two weeks. Last night, she suggested that they renew their wedding vows. Dave was thrilled, but his friends were not. Samantha said they needed a fresh start, and that Dave needed to quit being around people who weren’t supportive of them. She suggested that after they renewed their vows, they could start over by moving to the country like Dave had always wanted.
Example: Ryan and Lee recently broke up due to Lee’s cheating and lying. In an attempt to keep Ryan in the relationship, Lee is on his best behavior, and even schedules couples’ counseling for them. Things are going great in counseling, and they are going on date nights. Ryan is shocked at how quickly Lee’s behavior turned around and is thrilled that they seemed to have found such a skilled therapist, as he’s seeing such massive change, and in only two visits! Lee promises to do whatever it takes to make things better. He insists that they have such an intense connection that he just can’t walk away, and he now sees what he’s done wrong and wants to be the man that Ryan deserves. For Christmas, Lee gives Ryan a puppy, and they post happy pictures of them together with this puppy all over Facebook, which makes Lee look like the ideal partner, and Ryan lucky to have him. In reality, Lee has only gotten better at hiding his behavior and now has Ryan further committed to him by co-owning a puppy together.
Dana Morningstar is a former psychiatric nurse turned domestic violence educator who specializes in abuse awareness and prevention. Her passion is working with survivors of abuse to reclaim and rebuild their self-esteem, boundaries, confidence, and identity. She is an author of multiple books on the subject, and also has a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel, as well as several online support groups, all of which you can find under the name “Thrive After Abuse.”