Future Faking Is the New Manipulative Dating Tactic on the Rise

What is future faking? What to look for and how to respond.
Illustration of a magic 8 ball displaying the message "ask again later"
Illustration by Jordan Kay for The Knot
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
The Knot Contributor
  • Hayley writes articles on a freelance basis for The Knot Worldwide, with a specialty in sex and relationships.
  • Her work has appeared in The Knot, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and more.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hayley was a full-time editor at a business publication.
Updated Jan 25, 2024

Picture this: You're dating someone and it's going really well. So well in fact that your date might be making big promises and sharing dreams with you right off the bat. But then, they never follow through. It might be a case of future faking.

It can be easy to get swept up in the romance and an apparent alignment of goals and values. But in your search for partner material, it's important to recognize the signs of this trending manipulative dating tactic and examples of future faking.

So, what is future faking? What are some signs they may be future faking? And how does one respond? We chatted with Alyssa Roberts, a practicing psychologist and researcher at Practical Psychology, to get the lowdown on this dating red flag.

In this article:

What Is Future Faking?

Dating can be challenging enough—and that's without mixing in a future-faking narcissist into the mix! "Put simply, future faking is when someone talks a lot about plans and promises for the future without following through," explains Roberts. "They act like things will be great, but their actions don't match their words. It's a way for some people to keep others hooked without really committing to anything."

Sound familiar? Maybe you've experienced this yourself or you've seen a friend go through it, but didn't have the words to accurately describe it. Either way, now you know what a future fake is.

Why Do People Future Fake?

Like many things in life, people have their reasons. But when it comes to why people choose to use the manipulative tactic of future faking in dating, there can be several big reasons to back up why (and there's even research to prove it).

According to Roberts, some of the reasons behind future faking can be because a person wants attention or to feel in control at all times. Other times, this unfair and harmful dating tactic can help someone avoid responsibility or enjoy the benefits of a relationship without having to put in any real effort.

In short: Future faking could serve as a way for people who aren't honest or caring to still get what they want from a relationship without truly committing—which we don't wish on anyone.

Common Examples of Future Faking

Think you might be dealing with a potential future faker? Be on the lookout for these future faking examples below.

1. Constantly changes plans

Is your new lover constantly changing plans at the last minute? This is a way that a future faker might make you think that they are really into you, without ever having to make real plans together in the end.

2. Talks about the future — but never following through

Do they constantly say they love you and want to move in together? Or maybe they always talk about running away together to start a new life in a new city. According to Roberts, if they refuse to take the steps to make it happen, that could be a huge sign of future faking.

3. Teases the idea of marriage

"Some people also string the other person along by talking about marriage," Roberts notes. "But [they] never follow through with a proposal." You can learn more about whether your relationship is potentially ready for marriage here.

How to Respond to Future Faking

No one deserves future faking relationships—and if you're someone who is looking for a long-term partnership, it can be a disheartening experience. After all, future faking can make the person on the receiving end feel lonely, distrustful and confused.

If you notice a pattern of your partner's words not matching their actions, Roberts recommends the following:

  • Calmly acknowledge what you notice without the use of accusations.
  • Ask direct questions about their intentions.
  • Make clear that you value actions, not just promises.
  • Set boundaries. (For example, state you won't discuss long-term plans until they show with their actions that they can commit.)
  • Refocus conversations on the present and what you both are doing in the now—versus just hypothetical future scenarios.

When it comes to navigating this dating manipulation tactic, all hope is not lost. By using the above responses and adopting these significant shifts in the dynamic, you can take back some control of the relationship (and your own well-being).

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