The people we collectively call “family” can, at times, have us teetering on the edge of sanity. Sometimes they push all our buttons and sometimes, all at the same time.
The Problem: Family Members That Offend You
As you know, I have a very active community and sometimes the questions posted are extremely thought provoking.
Elizabeth posted the following question and gave us all a little history…
“Okay, so I don’t usually get irritated, I don’t get stressed out very much, and I hate confrontation. But my mother in law is staying with us for 3 weeks, my husband is on a 2 week break, my brother in law and father in law are also staying with us for 1-2 weeks each. I live in 1010 square feet. I know fridges get really full with extra people around, as well as the dishes getting used way more than normal, but what am I supposed to do when my mother in law moves all my food in my organized food cabinets (she moved it to what she likes), she moved all my dishes in my cabinets (to what she likes, even though everything had a place that you could easily tell where it went).
I’m going nuts. How do I nicely address this issue? Is this normal of family doing stuff like this when they come to visit?”
My Experience With A Mother-In-Law
When I gave birth to my daughter, my mother-in-law and father-in-law decided to visit us for the big event. I can’t remember exactly what day they arrived after Alyssa was born, but I vaguely remember their visit. There were, however, a few moments that stand out greater than the rest.
To be brief, I will say that my body was not made for growing and birthing children which is why I feel quite thankful for my daughter. So after I returned home from the hospital, I stayed in the bed and didn’t walk for a week. Actually, I crawled for about three weeks which is something I really try to forget.
So while incapacitated and asleep, my mother-in-law also decided to completely rearrange my kitchen. Alyssa’s father came into the room and said, “My mom is rearranging all the stuff in the cabinets because she wants to be helpful.” Then he bounced back out of the room. Men are oblivious to the “territorial homemaking rights” that women feel.
Actually, I think men are oblivious to just about everything women feel, but that is another post. (snicker, snicker)
At that point, I didn’t care if she pulled all the cabinets off the wall and hammered them on the roof. I was happy enough lying in bed and staring at my child as she slept. I was mesmerized and often in total disbelief that I finally had a baby of my very own.
After a very short visit, my in-laws left and eventually I was able to function in my kitchen again. As I opened each cabinet, the items within screamed “I am so disorganized and I don’t make sense being here.”
Well, I didn’t really feel like redoing my whole kitchen, so for a long time, the items hidden behind the cabinet doors remained the way my mother-in-law had arranged them. Eventually, I put most everything back except for a few things that did actually make more sense being where she had placed them.
My mother-in-law and father-in-law never visited us again. It was their one and only visit to our home. They would fly from one side of the country to the other visiting all their children, cousins and even some vacation sites, but never found the “time” to visit us except for that one time.
Needless to say, I was immensely hurt. I was married to their oldest son and Alyssa was our only child, but we didn’t rank high enough for visiting. Obviously, I never really got over it even though I am now divorced and no one in the family has anything to do with me.
My Advice: What To Do When Your Mother-In-Law Rearranges The Kitchen
If you had asked me the question, “What do I do? My mother-in-law completely rearranged the kitchen!” just eight years ago, I would have given you a completely different answer. However, time has healed most wounds, life has gotten shorter and possessions don’t mean as much to me any more.
You are married and totally capable of running your own home. Your mother-in-law is your husband’s mother which means he has a whole bunch of history with this woman. So I would suggest that you tell your husband how you feel about his mother undoing your kitchen and have him talk to his mother about her behavior and motives.
I suggest this for several reasons:
- Your mother-in-law is your husband’s mother and therefore, he speaks her language better. She was the one who taught him to speak!
- Your mother-in-law loves her son totally different than you simply because he is her son.
- Your mother-in-law will not be offended by her son the way she will feel offended by anything you say that sounds critical of her or her behavior.
- It is your husband’s responsibility to stand up for you even if it is against the wishes of his mother.
- You have better things to do than be stressed by your mother-in-law or her behavior.
After he talks to her and while she is still in your home, ask her if she would help you put everything back the way it was or assist you in starting completely over with the organizing because “two heads are better than one” and you would enjoy her company.
I heard you gasp in horror.
Look at it like this…
If your house burned down tonight, would the arrangement of all the items in the cabinet be worth arguing over?
I don’t think so.
There is another lesson to learn:
Don’t do this to your daughter-in-law or son-in-law some day.
What To Do When Family Members Hurt And Offend You
Everyone has a different personality, so inevitably there will be conflict. It is impossible to agree on everything and no one really wants that anyway. The world would be an awfully boring place if we were all the same in every way.
When family members offend you, the pain is much greater than when anyone else crosses you or breaks your heart. This circle of trusted people “know” you and have been incorporated in your life longer than anyone else. They are the people that you love unconditionally and you would die for them without blinking an eye. The love you feel is truly indescribable and etched within every atom of your body.
That is a priceless relationship and truly what makes life worth living.
When a family member offends you, 98% of the time it is unintentional. So with that in mind, rethink your actions/reactions to the situation long and hard. Are you without flaw? Do you ever make a mistake? Are you perfect in all your dealings with other people?
Get my point?
I think it was best said by Jesus Christ:
cast the first stone.”
Regardless of whether you believe in Jesus or not, the meaning of the quote is the same. If you are perfect, then go ahead and judge other people harshly with an unforgiving heart. I mean, you’re perfect, so you have the right to do so. However, if you are not perfect, it’s a totally different story.
A few things to help overcome the hurt and/or anger:
- Don’t dwell on the “act” that hurt you. I know—easier said than done.
- Don’t try to get even or seek vengeance. Inevitably, you will be seen as more of a “bad guy” than the “bad guy” in the situation.
- Talk with the person that offended you when you are ready and explain how badly their words or actions have hurt and/or angered you.
- Don’t let yourself be bullied by friends or the rest of the family to “just forget it” because only people with a brain disorder or disease like Alzheimer’s forget events that easily. You need to work through it in order for the pain to go away. Stuffing it inside yourself is not healthy.
- Recognize the value of the other person including their differences. Remember, they are human and members of your family. They love you. Maybe they don’t love you like you love them or in the same capacity, but they still love you with all that they can at this moment.
- Meditate. Meditate. Meditate. That means you need to turn off the radio and television. Try driving in the car with the radio off. It helps. I do it every day.
- Seek peace through relaxing experiences.
- Pray for guidance, peace, comfort and the ability to forgive.
- Make a conscious effort to put the whole situation behind you.
- Time heals. It may take a whole lot of time, but the farther you get from the circumstance that happened, the easier it will be not to feel so much pain around it.
Unless you live on an island all alone, you are going to have your feelings hurt or become angry at someone. More than likely, the person that causes you pain will be someone in your family because you have more interactions and/or history with them than anyone else on the planet. Healthy familial relationships are worth the effort to cultivate and maintain.
All-in-all, remember possessions and things don’t really matter in the whole scheme of life. House, car, couch, dishes, jewelry, carpet or a million other things will all rot or break, but the love of a family can become like super glue and stick you all together forever.
Now that is my opinion. What would you do if your mother-in-law rearranged your kitchen without your permission?
Speak up because we are all ears!