What To Do When Family Members Hurt You

by Sherry Riter in Communication,Family,Relationship

Someone please get me out of this chaotic cabinet!

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:

“Let him who is without sin
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!

The Redhead Riter

This post was written by...

Sherry Riter is also known as The Redhead Riter. Sherry is witty, intelligent and addictive as she writes about cooking, family, marriage, failures, blogging tips, art, humor, inspiration, travel, PTSD and aging. Her goal is to inspire, motivate, educate and to make her audience laugh. Sherry embraces being a redhead and helps others to see the redhead point of view…"In some eras redheads were worshipped while others thought us witches. Personally, I like the former and think every day is 'Love a redhead day!'" She can also be found on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Linkedin, tweeting as @TheRedheadRiter and you can subscribe to her free blog feed.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 TJ April 29, 2011 at 2:06 am

looks as if all your friends mother inlaws read your blog, not one response,lol.As your mom your knees must be red from all that kneeling and praying. I love you Moose, I would never hurt you and I would arrange your silver ware drawer in a minute if you let me.lol I so remember that visit, she insisted to put butter on my toast when I do not eat that stuff,lol. wow, those were the days.lolololol



2 The Redhead Riter April 29, 2011 at 4:19 am

I had totally forgotten about the butter thing with her and you. I remember hearing you all the way in the bedroom…her insisting you let her butter it and you insisting that she leave your bread alone. Funny to think about that now. Poor woman is so old now and can't hardly remember anything, so I'm sure she doesn't remember torturing you with butter LOL LOL LOL

My silverware drawer will never be arranged any differently than it is now. I will have to do a post and show everyone my neat drawer.

You check my blog usually before everyone else does, so that is why you are the first to see it! They also go to bed at a reasonable hour and we stay up too late!


3 Cinnamon April 29, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I was blessed to have a mother-in-law that was a Godsend. My ex (her son) was an only child and our son is an only child as well. She worshipped that child. She lived alone and was in poor health. But when I could get baby Jesse to her I made sure that he could stay at least a month. (the drive from GA to VA is a long one) I truly believe she lived for that child. She died in her sleep 2 days after he had gone home from a visit. In that respect, I was luckier than most women with their MIL's. But I too, have had family members hurt my feelings, and you are right…it's a hurt like no other. I suppose we all automatically assume that since the DNA is so close, they should know us better than anyone else. And yet, we are all individuals and they are no different than anyone else. They can be oblivious to our needs and feelings. A good friend of mine says it best: We can't pick our family, but we can pick our friends.

And some of my friends are more family than family.

Have a great weekend.


4 Carolyn April 29, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I don't have a mother-in-law. My husband's mother died when he was 19 and I never had the chance to even meet her. While I really do wish I had known her, it's nice that I don't have to deal with any MIL issues.

Also… I have three daughters. Once again, won't ever have to deal with a daughter-in-law.

But… I have enough crazy issues with my father-in-law which kind of makes up for it. Just wish he didn't feel like he had to meddle in our business all the time.


5 The Redhead Riter April 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Thank you Cinnamon for sharing that story about you MIL. It was very touching and I'm so glad that you have such beautiful memories.

I hope you have a great weekend too!


6 The Redhead Riter April 29, 2011 at 3:58 pm


Yeah, you were able to scoot out of MIL issues both with a husband and children. However, I guess if you start telling your future son-in-laws how to repair their cars or mow the lawn, you could be in some trouble! (wink)


7 BeaderBubbe April 30, 2011 at 1:24 am

Hubby and I made a pact (37 years ago) that he would take care of his family; I would take care of mine. And it worked out beautifully. Because you are right about sons and mothers….it was easier and less fighting (not a fighter here at all).Of course, after a while she caught on because she once said "You yes me to death, and do as you please." How right she was. I didnt have a problem with cupboards…mine are always disorganized and she couldnt find a thing…but we always had paper plates and plastic utensils around…it was easier that way! Life is too short to sweat the small stuff…


8 The Redhead Riter April 30, 2011 at 3:47 am


That sounded just beautiful! I was totally imagining you saying "yes" to everything! You are soooo right! Your comment validated my post, so thank you!!!!

37 years deserves a standing ovation (standing and clapping my hands in admiration for you and hubby)


9 Bev May 1, 2011 at 3:06 am

As a MIL, I will definitely try to heed the advice. I also have endured MIL's. It helps not being perfect so I can just move on. I loved the Jesus Christ example.


10 The Redhead Riter May 1, 2011 at 4:18 am


I'm not a MIL yet, but I'm definitely going to be careful not to try to stick my nose into other people's business where it is an in-law or anyone else.

Thanks for your comment.


11 Dilip Seal June 2, 2012 at 8:48 am

I am a 47 year old married man, having one son of 12+. We have a dwelling, where me, my widow mother, wife and son reside. I have two elderly married sisters at the same city where we live. My mother always asks me to get out of our house and to reside else where. She always blames me, for things which I have not done at all. She even beats me with walking sticks in front of my kid and wife. Everybody knows that she is of a hot nature, but nobody comes forward to tell the right.

I am an engineer by profession. Sometime I decide to leave our paternal house, leaving mother alone. But I can not. I am afraid of my sons study. He is now in Class seven. So please suggest what to do.

My sisters always give indulgences to my mother’s wrong decision and ill behaviors. She even tells lie and always blames me on every issue. The paternal property came to my name through declaration of all the legal heirs. But eventually mother blames me that I am a cheater and I have cheated her. In such a way by blaming me, we have lost properties at two major cities. Only due to get rid of blames, I want to return the properties again to mother.

Please suggest how to tackle this task. I want peace. Sometimes I feel that I have been adopted in this family, otherwise why do I always face such ill behaviors. My mother is about 72 years old and physically fit. Even she cooks for herself.


12 The Redhead Riter June 2, 2012 at 10:44 am


I’m so sorry for your situation. I don’t fully comprehend why your child’s schooling is hinged on remaining with your mother. Can’t he continue to go to school if you move?

Can you live in one of the properties and let you mother live alone at another one? That way you don’t have to live around her abuse. If she can take care of herself, you wouldn’t have to worry about that either.

If you remain in the same house with her, you need to stop her from hitting you. It is not right that anyone, even your mother, abuses you in such a manner. Tell her she is never to hit you again. No one has the right to treat you this way and it isn’t healthy for anyone…not even your mother. Obviously, it is time she learned some self-control.

I hope you find the peace that you seek and wish you the best in implementing a better plan for your life.


13 Tara June 18, 2012 at 12:40 pm

So tired of having my feelings hurt by my siblings. My parents (before they passed away) gave them their “place.” I have struggled with so many doubts because they tried to abort me, but yet here I am. Everyone else received certain responsibilities to take care of after they passed, but not me. I am expected to “pitch” in to “take care of things” and I do in order to honor my parents and their memory, not for them. I did so much for them when they were alive that my siblings didn’t do, my siblings would rarely even stop by to say hello….. yet they seem to have received all the “glory” and “trust”…… Some days it doesn’t bother me, some days it does. I have gone out of my way to help their families when called upon because family is important to me. When no one else will help them, I’m the one they call. It’s getting to the point that I feel used…… I’m sure they wouldn’t agree with me, even tho I was treated differently and they know it. I’m sure they would say I’m being silly, yet they have not walked in my shoes…..if only they could know how I feel…..they don’t care.


14 The Redhead Riter June 18, 2012 at 9:13 pm


I’m so sorry that you are hurting. I know that no one has walked in your shoes, so it is impossible to know how you feel. You can only change yourself, so don’t waste time trying to change other people or have them see your pain. It doesn’t matter that you are “blood” because other people aren’t necessarily as loving, giving or as unselfish as you. All you can do is keep moving yourself forward. Surround yourself with people who care and don’t bother with the people who don’t care. Just let it go and have a happy life anyway. {{{hugsssss}}}


15 Elizabeth Hansen July 18, 2012 at 3:53 pm

The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense by Suzanne Elgin is a great book through which to easily learn skills for dealing with anyone, relatives or not, who makes pretenses against you. I studied through it in a group at our church. The book is not “Christian” in nature, but is of learning how to handle communications with someone who verbally attacks a person. It teaches you how to disarm a situation without hurting the other person. When dealing with my family, I have to get it out and re-read frequently what to do, because dealing with some family members is like walking into a volcano.
Please get the book, even an old, used copy, because it’s worth every single word and exercise written in it!


16 The Redhead Riter July 18, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Thank you, Elizabeth. I just put the name of the book in my cell phone so that I can grab it when I’m at the store. {{{hugsss}}}


17 laoshir October 6, 2012 at 11:30 am

Dear Readhead Riter,

I appreciate your response to the submitters questions but want to draw my attention on the following quote:

“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. ”

I have a brother living out of state and most of the time when any member of my family visits(usually it is for two weeks; summer). The first two days are a lashing at family members in a rant of disrespect and what I would consider nonsensical for a man, his age of 57. No I am not perfect and I love my brother but I am quick to defend, especially when he rants about my wife. I do stand up for her. The rants usually dwindle down after two days but pot shots are taken throughout the visit. I noticed he does it with neighbors and complete strangers. Wow too much.

What is sad is this behavior continues even to his wife and her family. Throughout the years of their marriage, I believe my sister in law handles the situation in private, my than likely for reasons of saving my brother embarrassment(sp).

I usually tend to avoid his rants as not to but fuel in the fire. My brother reminds me of my father in law, who verbally abused his wife and for that matter four son in laws.

My siblings and I think our dear brother is in need of serious anger management counseling. Perhaps this suggestion should come from his wife.

Take care.


18 Sherry Riter October 6, 2012 at 11:35 am

Oh my! That sounds so dreadful and very sad! Your brother is missing out on so much happiness with his family. I’m very sorry that it is that way for your family, but I know many families with the same thing going on. {{{SUPER BIG hugsss}}} I will hope that some day he will get the help he needs and comes to the fullness of enjoying his family and their company.


19 Terry May 20, 2013 at 10:00 am

Thought I would interject a disagreement if you don’t mind. In the case of the re-arrangement of your cabinet, consider that a “little thing” that is temporary and just let it go. From a male’s perspective, and one who loved his mother dearly, I hated being placed in a difficult situation between 2 women I loved . Unless the mother-in-law has moved in permanently, let her have her moment and re-arrange back to your preference after she leaves.
As for “hurt feelings”, mine can only be hurt by someone I care about. Nothing a stranger, or mere acquaintance says to me can hurt. I may make me a little angry at first…………then I’ll get over it pretty quickly.


20 Sherry Riter May 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Thank you Terry. I wrote this post over two years ago and having read again after all that time has passed, I actually feel very different about my answer too. LOL

Life is SO SHORT! If I had a husband, I wouldn’t put him in the middle of the situation at all. I also probably wouldn’t even change the cabinets back after the mother-in-law left to go home. For one thing, it is too much work! LOL All joking aside, that kind of stuff just doesn’t bother me at all anymore. The important thing would be that the mother and son enjoyed their time together without any conflict.

Hindsight is great, but it is also painful because I can remember so many things I would have done differently. I’m sure if I live another twenty years, I will look back to my life today and say the same thing. Hopefully, I keep improving so that I won’t have too many regrets. I appreciate the man’s point of view. As you know, my family has a lot of estrogen in it! 😉 {{{{hugsss}}}}


21 Cammie August 12, 2013 at 10:59 pm

I have a brother that I used to be best friends with. Now, he doesn’t seem to give a damn about anyone but himself. We’ve all had a hard time due to our sister. She’s an addict and alcoholic. She basically abandoned her children and left them with us to care for them. My brother never answers his phone, no matter what. I got aggravated after trying to call him three times and he didn’t answer. I left him a text saying I was stuck on the tollway and would he come get me. I wasn’t stuck, I just wanted to see what would happen. He never answered. I now know I mean nothing to him. We were always friends and at times we did everything together. We went places together, hung out together, you name it, we did it. Now, he just doesn’t give a damn and I can’t figure out what I did. The few times he answers the phone he says “what”. Not even a hello, just what. He’s my baby brother and I’ve always looked out for him. It hurts so much to not he doesn’t give a damn about me. What do I do to deal with the pain?


22 Sherry Riter August 18, 2013 at 11:47 am

Cammie, maybe your brother is suffering something too. Maybe he doesn’t know how to reach out or tell you. Do you live close enough to visit him? I know that especially in the beginning stages of my PTSD, I was so lost that unless someone was right there with me, I couldn’t communicate with them.

I hope that you are able to find a way to communicate with him and to heal your own pain. {{{hugssss}}}


23 YVONNE ROSE August 28, 2013 at 5:05 pm



24 Sherry Riter October 13, 2013 at 10:55 am


I am so sorry that you are hurting. It is so important to remember that we can only control our own actions and not those of others. Everyone comes from a different place emotionally and the best we can do is control our own self.



25 Jane rader August 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Yvonne Rose, I can so identify with you and your family relationships. We must have been born secret twins! I am in the same boat so you are not alone. I read something once that helped me to understand my feelings. Hurt is such a difficult thing to have to live with and sometimes it devastates our self esteem and leaves us feeling like we are second class, we don’t matter or we are not good enough. Then I read ” That you can measure the level of pain/hurt by the level of love you have or had for that person.” It isn’t you that is flawed! You are a good person and have a good family of your own! That speaks volumes of the kind of person you are! Focus on your own children and grandchildren so that kind of pain doesn’t get passed to them. You said “I am rich in so many ways” hold on to that. Don’t worry about people that ignore you and act like you don’t matter, love the ones who are always there for you no matter what!


26 Sherry Riter August 7, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Thank you so much for your lovely comment Jane. {{{{hugssss}}} It is a relief to know that it isn’t because we are flawed. 🙂


27 Dayle February 10, 2015 at 7:39 pm

I learned the hard way! My husband and I visited with my step daughter (my husbands only daughter) for 3 weeks and one day while she was at work, I re-arranged her kitchen…I thought she would be grateful (because her kitchen was filthy and un-sanitary) but she was belligerent to the tone that I had to hide away in our guest room for the rest of our visit. I felt so bad and realized how territorial she was. I realized I was wrong for abusing my stay and I apologized and couldn’t wait to get out of her house because she made my life miserable after that!! But of course, when she visits, I can’t walk out of a room without her waffling through our personals, never offering to wash a dish after lunch or Dinner. Just sits there and acts & talks like her mother (my husbands EX…)( that’s why she is an EX) gossiping about her step-sisters( my daughters) and her only brother. Everyone is out to get her(supposedly) and she cusses my Husband for leaving her Mom while she was stressed out emotionally. My husband divorced her because she was cheating on him with two of his fellow workers. And these men were married! In order to keep the peace I didn’t respond to her hateful remarks until I had enough. I had paid 10 times over for “Cleaning” her kitchen yet she could spend years making me pay for it! My Husband was proud of me when I told her that if she wanted to be part of our life, she had to forgive me and we had to move on from all the negativity…she doesn’t like it and grumbles often but it’s getting better. I tolerate her because she is my husbands daughter but I have also grown to love her. I think sometimes relationships can’t be perfect, but as long as I am patient…it’s all good! It is what it is and my husband is worth it. He’s worth fighting for even though I know she would like to destroy us!


28 Sherry Riter February 13, 2015 at 2:17 am

Oh my!!!! If my kitchen had been filthy, I would have been very grateful. I’m sorry your step daughter didn’t appreciate your effort. {{{hugsss}}}


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