Been thinking how to have a happy family. Ming and I are good at it. Spring will be our ten year anniversary of being together. I’d say that’s a win.
We met at a mutual friend’s birthday party in Sacramento. Our first friend date, Ming invited me and my ex-husband to pick satsumas at an orchard in the foothills. It was gleaning–the trees had already been picked professionally. We were volunteers, coming through for the missed fruit to give away to the hungry.
Yes, I was thrilled to be helpful, spend time outdoors, do work related to plants and food. It was community building and anarchist, collaborative, and experientially fun. Picking fruit is sacred. And I felt excited to do something I’d never done before.
When I hugged Ming goodbye, he was respectful and kind to me. He acknowledged my worth as a person. Yes, I love that about him. He already had that when we met, and I did too.
All these values we still share today. Our life is about community, respect, helping others, fun, permaculture, and anarchy. Shared values like this can help a family develop shared goals and a little culture of care.
saying thank you
Being vocal about appreciating one another can go a long way toward happiness. Just now I heard the smoke alarm going off in the back house, and I asked Ming to see if they needed help. “Good ear,” he said.
He didn’t need to praise me. But little kindnesses like that are joyful, and our hearts stay soft to one another. When he returns, I’ll thank him for checking out what’s going on back there.
In some families, appreciation is unspoken. Ming and I make a point to thank one another explicitly. Feels good to acknowledge–every day–the good we do in each other’s lives.
I say thank you to acquaintances, CNAs, waitstaff, a welfare worker on the phone. It’s good to thank these people, but my spouse is the person I spend my life with and build reality with. He’s the one I want to thank the most.
Using manners is a comforting way to show we care. I treasure Ming, and I need him to know that. I also need him to let me know he appreciates what I do. When stress makes life hard, we have a rhythm of politeness that’s automatic. So even if we’re freaking out about something, the manners are habit to help us.
liking each other
Can’t fake liking each other! But you can cultivate it. Mutual respect and appreciation help us keep liking one another a great deal. And we change a lot over the years, but always together.
intentionality, avoiding substances
I see people make poor choices while they’re using drugs in excess, like alcohol, weed, opioids. Intentionality is important to me: making choices in alignment with my values. Overuse of substances means people are less in control of their choices.
I’m not taking about ritual use or medicinal. More how substance abuse can be related to domestic violence and other relationship pain. I saw this in my family of origin.
I’m grateful that Ming and I don’t enjoy recreational drugs that might worsen our choices and lead to us harming one another. We’re disabled and have a delicate balance of well-being. Drug use would throw it off.
We have real intimacy. That means honesty with one another, but also honesty with ourselves. That requires self-knowledge and taking the time to see what we’re doing, examine our motivations, and have difficult conversations.
sense of humor
Difficult conversations could get too dense. Health problems and injustice create painful struggle. But liking one another and having a sense of humor means we can get through anything.
Wordplay, joy in the absurd, long running jokes, playfulness, and knowing what not to joke about help us keep having fun.
Hugs, feeding Ming bites of a pear I just cut up, nature time, massage, Thai food, singing, ritual and prayer, travel to see new landforms and biomes, and other shared pleasures nourish our relationship. Even if our parts don’t work anymore one day and we don’t have sex anymore, we can still give pleasure to one another and delight the senses.
Pleasure is a comfort, great for bonding, something trustworthy to return to again and again. If we lay a solid pleasure foundation, we can build a lot of advanced relationship structure on top of that.
how about you
Maybe those are enough ideas for today. I would say also: Staying enlivened to one another, curious, always respecting the other person’s Mystery and sacred individuality.
How about you? What do you know about how to have a happy family? What helps you maintain strong relationships?
I think a lot about the strength of a container. We need to be reliable to one another, trustworthy, and really there for each other. But we need flexibility too–for the container to stay changeable, so we can keep growing and the relationship can too. So a good combination of strong and able to be remade.