Here are three sentences describing what it is that I'm looking for help with:
I'm looking for a way to get across to my adult son that I can no longer tolerate his abusive behavior (criticism/ridicule/rebuke) towards me. I want to maintain a good relationship with him but not at the cost of being his virtual/verbal punching bag. I've expressed that it's very upsetting to me, but it hasn't stopped the abuse.
Below is background about the situation:
I'm married with two grown sons, 30 and 32 years old. The eldest, Seth, lives nearby, so we see each other 2 to 4 times a month and on the one hand, we are very friendly with each other, but on the other hand, Seth is able to criticize or ridicule me for just about everything that I say or do. It's always been slightly difficult, but when he broke up a long relationship recently, it seemed to get a magnitude worse. Although, now that there is a new relationship (seems to be a happy one!), that does not seemed to have changed anything in terms of how Seth treats me. Frankly, it was never great, and maybe I’ve just had enough.
I don't make judgments about him or what he does. I don't pry into his life. I would say that I don't interfere in his life but I'm there for whatever support he needs, which isn't very often. He’s smart, responsible and I think takes care of himself very well. I don’t have any complaints about how he lives his life. I give advice when it's requested, mainly work stuff, or working on cars, cooking, or on that level of interaction. I would describe myself as having a lot of opinions, like food, politics, etc. but I would also say that I don't push them onto anybody, including Seth. My wife and youngest recognize this situation as well, and they have both lamented that they don't understand why Seth behaves the way he does towards me. I would best compare it to how I treated my father when I was a teen and was doing my best to annoy my Dad with snide comments. That doesn't seem unusual to me to behave like that as a teenager, although I don't really know why I did it, but it does seem strange to me that this is happening with a grown up.
It's at the point where I just don't want to say anything, but that's a strange and unnatural way to have to behave, plus sometimes you just can't remain quiet. I want to be around him less and less. I can see how I could become estranged from him, but that's not what I want. I've researched a bit on the web, but most of what I see seems to point at the parent making judgments and interfering or pressuring their grown children. I really don't see that happening here at all. My wife doesn’t seem to be the focus of any of this difficult behavior.
When I complain to him about the way he is treating me, it usually elicits a sheepish “sorry”, but after having gone through this scenario so many times, it’s clear that the “sorry” does not in any way translate to him not repeating this behavior. I’ve explained that I’m entitled to have my own opinions and that I’m not criticizing him, but that it’s my opinion and you are welcome to have your own opinion. When I say "opinion", really I mean opinion or just a comment about something. For example, we had some visitors from Europe and one of the teens was wearing a t-shirt that had "Hollister" written across it. I asked where she got it because it's a town in California. I was just curious, but I was rebuked for saying something like this, and him saying that it has nothing to do with the city and it's a brand, etc. Ok, fine, but I just asked him if he could let the teen answer. I thought that was a rather harmless question and could have been a nice interaction, but in this case, all I got was "interference" and a "rebuke".