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I don't know if this is in the right place to ask this question.

I am 27 years old and I live with my fiance. Everytime I happen to meet my friends and my parents are around, or whenever my fiance meets my parents, my parents start ridiculing me. They start telling stories of when I was still a child and twisting tales to make me look stupid and like an imbecile.

Whenever I confront them they become verbally abusive and they spend days on end not talking to me just because I stand up for my rights.

Why is that? Why do they act the way they do?

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There's ridicule of who you are today and then there's "embarrassing stories of when you were a kid". The intent of each is quite different. The former is just being a jerk. The latter is just being a parent. –  DA01 Mar 13 at 18:46
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3 Answers 3

They probably don't mean any harm by it, and see it as all in good fun. It's hard for some people to recognize when they've crossed the line between fun and ridicule. Also, that line is different for different people.

One way to deal with it is to dish it back. Speaking as one of those people who sometimes has problems noticing he crossed the line, I can tell you that's one of the most effective ways to make the point.

If that's not your style, make sure to not let the stories go on and on before finally saying something. Your parents will take your silence as tacit assent. It doesn't have to be confrontational, just say something like, "I don't like these kind of stories, can we talk about something else?" The longer you go without saying something, the harder it is for them to understand your objection.

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Why they do it is not really answerable - they could be jealous of your life outside their world, upset that their baby has grown up, they maybe miss you...etc.

I am not sure confrontation is the right way to go about things, but you should point out that what they are doing is making you miserable and less likely to spend time with them. If they want you as part of their lives they should respect your feelings.

If they aren't prepared to do that, and ignore you when you challenge them on the subject, maybe spend some time not talking to them. It is a bit confrontational, and it may not be the most constructive action, but you will get some space, and they may realise they want you in their lives.

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I'm very sorry this happens to you.

It's not clear from your question exactly what you are saying when you respond to them, but one approach that I read about once somewhere and really liked is this: when someone does something you find hurtful, say, very calmly and straightforwardly, "I feel demeaned" or "I feel mocked" or "I feel hurt" and possibly, "Please stop".

There are two keys to this:

(1) It is important that you try to focus on only talking about how you feel and limit as much as possible what claims you make about them. When it comes to how you feel, they can't really tell you you're wrong without sounding absurd. Who can disagree with a person who makes a statement like "I feel demeaned"? Only you know how you feel and that is obvious. On the other hand, if you say something like, "you're being hurtful," they can argue that you just misinterpreted them. If you try to argue about the particulars of what they are saying, they can easily disagree and say you're wrong, and a fight will ensue.

(2) Stay calm so as to appear to be the most rational one. If they try to tell you to lighten up or get mad at you for not taking a joke, just stay calm and stick with your story, "I feel demeaned and I would like it if you would stop". Don't lash out. If you become angry or upset, or try to insult them in defense, they will get defensive and angry in return, and a fight will ensue.

By sticking strictly to only speaking about your own feelings and remaining calm, the hope is that this will ultimately make them feel embarrassed by their behavior and they will stop in order to stop feeling embarrassed. I've tried this on acquaintances who are often hurtful and they have stopped and apologized (and are overall less mean since then), so it seems effective.

Lastly, here is an article series about how not to get your buttons pushed: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/200910/disarming-your-buttons-how-not-get-provoked-part-3-4 It's not the article I mentioned above, because I can't find that one. I think I found it when searching for phrases like "how to deal with invalidation" and "how to set boundaries" so maybe you will stumble across it too. Good luck!

EDIT: I just realized I didn't really answer the question. It's very hard to say why they do this without knowing more about your parents and your history. There could be many reasons: they feel threatened by you, they think they are just having fun, they are trying to force you to be a certain way (e.g., more self-deprecating), etc. Perhaps you should talk to a family therapist about this.

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