Future Faking: What To Know About The Red Flag Dating Trend

Navigating the dating world in this day and age is pretty much on par with riding a rollercoaster that you didn't want to go on, yet here you are. It's not only about the ups and downs, but just when you think things are A-okay and going smoothly, you're thrown down another steep drop. And because of this, dating as a whole has gotten a bad rap.

"Dating apps changed the digital dating landscape due to the collection of convenient features they brought to the table, which I have called 'intimacies of convenience,'" digital media sociologist Dr. Rachel Katz told Vice. "They are often image-based, mobile, geolocative, use a swiping mechanism, and have a 'consent to chat' feature ... People like the convenience these features enable. But at the same time, this convenience can also bring negative experiences: transactional language, ghosting, and objectifying language." It can also bring a little something called future faking into the fold, in which someone makes promises about the near or distant future that they don't intend to keep.

With a whopping 67% of adults reporting that their dating life is "not at all well," and 75% finding dating to be "very" or "somewhat difficult," according to a 2020 poll by Pew Research Center, being in the know about harmful dating trends has become paramount. If you haven't heard about future faking, it's time to learn about it. You actually may have already experienced it — or perpetuated it yourself — but didn't realize there was a term for it.

What is future faking?

Although we're all guilty of saying things in new relationships when we're completely smitten, future faking isn't done innocently. Instead, it's a manipulation tactic that narcissists use to keep the person they're dating interested. A narcissist will come into your life and make promises about all the things you'll do together in the future, the trips you'll go on, the perfect wedding you'll have, and even the kids you're destined to have together.

"Future faking happens most often at the start of a relationship as the purpose is to build a quick connection," licensed marriage and family therapist Kara Kays, LMFT told Thriveworks. "Further into the relationship, a bond may already be established leaving the future faking less effective, and easier to identify if insincere." According to Kays, this technique is often used by the future-faker as a way to protect themselves from being rejected. Their thinking is if they outline a big, wonderful future with the person they've just recently started dating, then they'll be less likely to be dumped. In turn, they'll get to be the one to end things on their terms and when they're ready. It very much comes down to controlling the relationship, as well as the outcome for no other reason than that's what narcissists do.

How to recognize it

Unsurprisingly, future faking can be difficult to see at first. Like the abusive dating trend of love bombing, everything is happening so fast that trying to deduce if you're in a fairytale or being manipulated can take time to figure out. Since this is the case, if the person you're dating is throwing around promises that seem too good to be true, pay attention and see if they're doing anything to make those promises a reality.

"I've explained to clients numerous times that words are easy to say, and communication through technology takes hardly an ounce of effort," matchmaker Susan Trombetti told Ask Men. "The real test of interest comes through consistent action over a longer period of time. Unfortunately, many clients want to be married or in a relationship yesterday, so instead of proceeding with caution and allowing for that evaluation time, they want to believe the future promises and do so without reservation."

Anyone can promise happily ever after, but not everyone can — or even wants to — make it happen. Everything they say should be followed by specific actions. If they're not, it's time to re-evaluate why they might be saying what they say. Is it innocent newly-in-love talk, or something more diabolical?

What to do about it

The best thing you can do when you identify future faking is to try to talk to the person you're dating. There's nothing wrong in pointing out that what they say doesn't seem to be what they actually want and you're not comfortable with the situation. 

"If you notice your partner is trying to rush things or talk you into taking next steps that you're not ready for, make sure to set your standards in the relationship and go at a pace you are comfortable with," clinical psychologist Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD told Well + Good. "If they are constantly promising things to you in the moment and you're feeling uncomfortable you could change the conversation or ask them to hold off on these promises and ideas if you don't feel ready for them yet."

If someone is future-faking it, there's a good chance you'll get some pushback if you tell them to slow down. On the other hand, if someone is crazy about you and genuinely wants to build something long-term with you, they'll respect your need to take a step back. Then, and only then, will you be able to figure out what their intentions might be and if they're toxic or not.