Beware of the Punisher! {3 Signs of a Toxic Person}

January 24, 2017

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A while back, I was introduced to this guy. We’ll call him Bret. For months a mutual friend of ours (let’s call him Charles) made the attempt to pique my interest in his regard. No matter how favorably he spoke of Bret, there was this nagging sense that I did not need to oblige the suggestion for us to meet.  

Every so often, I’ll question my gut instincts and move against it. This is what happened with Bret. I finally gave the consent for our friend to introduce us. Bret was a fairly decent guy. He was really attractive, funny, and had ambition. The process of us getting to know each other lasted all of 3 days. That may even be a record for me–the shortest courtship ever lol. As I often do, I paid special attention to everything Bret said as well as what he wasn’t saying. I noticed immediately there was something that was off. I took into consideration the normal nervousness of meeting someone new and the pressure to impress them. But it was something else.  

Ultimately there were three things that stood out to me that influenced my decision to discontinue getting to know Bret.  

1.Unchecked Insecurity

We all have insecurities. That in and of itself is not the primary concern for me. It’s the unchecked insecurities that can be dangerous. I made a comment to Bret that I hadn’t spoken with Charles since we’d connected, and his response was something along the lines of, “Maybe it’s a new season. That relationship may need to come to an end.” I immediately felt a jolt in my stomach.

There was a point in my life where I would only deal with insecure men. Clearly I was a glutton for punishment. I had this desire to prove to them I could love them, and that I could be all they needed. I learned from these dealings that the heart behind my efforts was unhealthy and distorted. Eventually, once I addressed my own stuff, I developed an arsenal of behaviors and characteristics to look out for moving forward. This statement from Bret triggered an internal response that I recognized from my previous interactions with insecure men.

Essentially what Bret was saying (without saying) was, “I’m not secure enough to handle your friendship with Charles so, I would feel more comfortable if you dissolved it.” Here’s the thing, that’s an extremely valid concern. Opposite sex friendships can be tricky. Some reject any notion they can remain platonic. I understand that. However, I have maintained some absolutely amazing friendships with men (of course ensuring appropriate boundaries are enforced). The underlying sentiment to Bret’s statement though, was a desire to control out of fear. This is, and should undoubtedly be a red flag for anyone beginning to get to know someone.

2.      Possessiveness Under the Guise of Flattery

Bret had his hands in a few opportunities to diversify income. A noble ambition. One of Bret’s endeavors is making beaded bracelets. Beautiful bracelets, might I add. Bret presented me with a bracelet on Day 2. The next (and what would be the final) day we got together, and I didn’t have the bracelet on, he brought my attention to the fact that my wrist was void of the bracelet. Again, I felt the jolt in my stomach.

On the surface, that exchange probably seemed innocent, but I knew different. As if it were a wedding band, Bret’s expectation was that I would wear “his” bracelet regularly. This expectation comes out of, yet again, a subtle desire to control. I know some reading this are probably rolling their eyes and thinking I’m a little too hyper-vigilant. This could be true. However, I am normally (actually always) spot on with recognizing a man with insecurities that could become harmful.

3.      The Punisher

Bret shared a little bit about his family life with me over a cup of yogurt. The stories were interesting and funny. There was one story though that caught my attention. Bret’s biological father entered his life at age 12. He is now 40+. For the last 30 years, according to Bret, his father has made every effort to build and nurture their relationship.

Unfortunately, despite his father’s best efforts, Bret insists on keeping him in his place. Bret refuses to call his biological father “dad”, or even by his first name. No, Bret calls him “Biological Dad.” I wanted to make sure I understood. So, to clarify I asked, “What do you call him to his face?” His response: “Biological Dad.”

Instead of a jolt in my stomach, I felt grieved in my heart. I became saddened almost to the point of tears. Here’s why. Regardless of why his father wasn’t present the first 12 years of Bret’s life, Bret admits that he has more than made an effort to make up for it in the last 30 years. And yet, Bret still sees it necessary to punish him. I immediately thought about what this would look like if he and I were to be in a relationship. I would have been foolish not to think Bret would have also sought to punish me when he felt upset, hurt, or rejected.

Bret possesses a hardness of heart that would make it extremely difficult (maybe even impossible) for him to forgive perceived offenses in a marriage. For me, that’s a tough pass. I’m human so, I will absolutely make mistakes. The risk here is that my mistakes will not only NOT be forgiven, but I may even be punished for them indefinitely. This type of relational pattern is counterproductive and unhealthy. It would have been different if Bret had the awareness to say, this is something that I still struggle with and my desire is to one day be able to completely forgive my father for abandoning me.

Hey, I could accept that. But a total lack of awareness coupled with an unforgiving heart? Nah, I’m sorry! I ain’t gonna be able to do it!

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