Are You Being Future-Fished?

Too much, too soon? Is your new date selling you a picture of themselves that sounds too good to be true, maybe you’re being future-fished…

future fished

by Olivia Foster |

Ever since a baby-faced Nev Schulman popped onto our screens in 2010 cat-fishing has been part of the online dating lexicon. But what if the person you’re talking to *is* who they say they are, but what they’re telling you about their dating intentions isn’t quite so honest? Maybe you’re being future-fished.

Future-fishing is when someone creates an exciting narrative about your potential future together in order to create a level of intimacy that wouldn't otherwise be there yet. Think discussing holiday plans before you've seen the inside of one another's flats, meet-the-parents chats when you don't know their last name, and suggestions of exclusivity when you've barely been on two dates. Future fishers sell you a dream, but what do we know about dreams? They’re not real.

Future-fish live life on fast-forward, forgoing focusing on the present in favour of mentally fast-tracking your relationship two years down the line. But all too often these interactions are boom and bust, no sooner have you been sold on the dream than they’ve moved onto the next person.

It’s something a lot of people have experienced. 32-year-old Aisha* says, ‘After meeting Sam* on Hinge, I noticed he steered a lot of our early conversations towards things we could do together. I thought it was sweet at first, we talked about places we wanted to travel and he suggested we could go together. Then he mentioned his birthday, which was six months away, and how I’d be there. Three dates later he told me he didn’t want to see me again. In retrospect it felt like those were things he said to everyone, designed to make us feel closer.’

28-year-old Hannah* says, ‘I dated Aaron* for three months, during which he painted an amazing picture of our future, telling me how he wanted to move in,  how I was going to be best friends with his sister, even talking marriage. Then one day he ghosted me, I literally never heard from him again. I wish I’d listened to my intuition when I thought it all felt a bit much for so early on.’

But how do you differentiate between someone who’s genuinely excited to date you and someone who is future-fishing? It all comes down to timing and intention. If it seems like it’s too much, too soon, it probably is. If it feels like it’s too good to be true, it also probably is.

The easiest way to work out if someone means what they’re saying is to look at their actions – are they actually actively working towards you doing any of these things they’re mentioning with you? Future-fish talk a good talk, but they often don’t walk a good walk. It’s something I’ve experienced myself. From the moment I met Ryan* he told me I was unlike anyone he’d ever met (red flag), he invited himself for Christmas with my Mum (it was July and we’d been dating three weeks) and started talking about plans to make a family.

But this was a man who would routinely not text me back for four days, or would cancel our dates at short notice, we couldn’t plan a weekend away, let alone a baby. There was no intention behind his words and no desire in his actions, he was just telling me what he thought I wanted to hear in order to keep the ‘relationship,’ going.

That’s what future-fish do; they create a sense of closeness to keep you interested. In that sense their actions can be as damaging as other controlling dating traits, like love-bombing - where a person showers you with attention and affection in the early stages in order to control you later. Future-fish play on people’s vulnerabilities and desire for connection, but with no intention of following through on the promises they make.

In an article by PyschToday, they suggest that this behaviour is often a trait perpetuated by narcissists, who speak to our future desires in order to get what they want in the now. They say, ‘Our heartfelt desires, whether about marriage, children, work, happiness, traveling, fun times, anything really, and our heartfelt desires become weaponized in order to control us.’ Explaining that over time it can become more and more difficult to disentangle yourself from the future-fish lies.

It’s little surprise that sometimes it works. Despite a growing grumbling that we’re ‘tired,’ of dating apps, many of us are still using them in the hope of finding love (or at least a half decent hook up). In fact, in January 2022 Bumble, Hinge and Tinder saw 17% growth between them and to date there are over 323million people using apps worldwide.

So when you’re out there looking for love, just be careful you’re both looking for the same thing, and remember, just like cat-fish, if it seems too good to be true - it might just be!

*Names have been changed

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