9 years of figuring out what works for me & my partner.
Note: This entry contains a ton of adorable wholesome pictures of Judd & me over the years. For those of you receiving this in email, it is possible that your email server may consider the file sizes too large and truncate the message or leave out the pictures. You may wish to click on the entry itself to see them, if you want.
On August 22nd, of 2012, Judd and I had our first date.
It wasn’t really meant to be a date. We’d met on Facebook in June, met in person at a conference in Vegas in July, and in August he was trying to sell his Burning Man tickets - I found him a buyer, and he offered to buy me dinner the next time he was in Vegas (where I was living for a year and a half) as a thank you.
Dinner turned into talking all night, sharing philosophy, sharing our perspectives on the world, sharing our musical tastes with each other, and suddenly realizing the sun had come up while we’d been diving deep into each others’ minds.
We fell asleep together. We woke up, I made breakfast (it was afternoon by then) and I drove him back to his friends’ house where he was staying. He assumed I wasn’t interested romantically/sexually since we’d stayed mostly platonic that night. He figured he might never see me again, or at least not in a date-way.
Afterwards I messaged him, thanking him for not having sex with me, because now I was looking forward to seeing him again. “My pleasure to not be of service”, he replied.
We’d already been messaging flirtatiously before that, but from that point forward, I did so with more intention.
A few weeks later I was in Los Angeles most of September working as a nanny for the little girl I lovingly call my “niece” (she’s the daughter of my goddess-mother). Judd and I made the time to see each other again, and again we stayed up all night sharing music and talking (and not talking) until dawn. Then I’d slip away and take care of a six month old at 10am, and text him cute pictures all day.
In October, he invited me to Los Angeles to see Florence & The Machine together for my birthday. I met his mother and brother that week too.
The Weeknd opened for Florence that night - and at the beginning of the show, we took LSD together. We had a mind blowing time, I’m not entirely sure I remember a time where I laughed or smiled or felt like literal magic so much.
We got back to his house and enjoyed our trip all night together.
From that point forward, I came out to Los Angeles once a month. I’d stay for 3-4 days, we’d always take LSD one of the nights, we’d talk and kiss and fuck and learn so much about each other - share our secrets and our fears and our vulnerabilities and our passions.
In February of 2013, he had me come out for Valentine’s Day, something he swore he doesn’t do and had pre-warned me months earlier that he would never do (“I never spend Valentine’s Day with any girl I’m seeing, because I’m always seeing several at a time”). But we spent it together.
After that, I came out for 2-3 days twice a month. At some point it started to feel like everything I was doing was to just bring me back to him in a circle every couple of weeks. We were tripping on mushrooms in April 2013, when I apologized that he has to pause his life for me when I come visit for days at a time.
He told me, "No, this is my life, here with you, in this bed. When you leave, the rest of the world is like a screensaver until you come back."
One night as the walls spun colors and music dripped into our ears, he picked me up from the bed and we slowly danced around the bedroom, hands entwined. There were many words exchanged with varying depths of intimacy, but after missing one another over and over again, the words that echoed deepest were when he told me he was so glad that he “found” me. That moment hung around for an extended period of time, just echoing in my peripheral as the rest of the night went on.
I will credit the use of psychedelics with creating a deep and essential bond between the two of us. Every month, at least once a month, for the first 8 months of our relationship, we took psychedelics and dove deep into each other. It created a profound connection. (We’ve been doing a similar thing this past year).
I moved back to Los Angeles in July (2013), with a new job in finance, staying with a friend of mine, and our relationship continued. We had some bumps in the road - seeing each other more often had benefits and costs, it was no longer a vacation, but many things were so right between us, and other things we had a lot of work to do to integrate into each others’ lives.
We had conflicts. Serious conflicts of how we reflected on each other, how neither of us were interested in adjusting ourselves significantly to be in a partnership, yet, we wanted to be together. So we were. Our relationship kind of happened, without intention or deliberate definition, it just became the reality of our lives.
Which led to tensions. We ended up taking a break in February of 2015. Both of us had habits and baggage that were stressing the other out and causing each of us to lose focus on our own personal goals and making it harder for us to be better partners. Neither of us were willing to cede certain ground in our disagreements about the way our lives could intertwine, and both of us desperately wanted to leave the pressure of trying.
We officially broke up in public. We didn’t hint at a possible reconciliation, just wished each other the best and let our friends know there was no animosity. Our relationship was so public we felt the need to make public statements. We meant them, except for the part where in truth, we were open to being together again, in time, when we were ready for it. Maybe. If we didn’t discover something else we needed. It was on the table, but not something we necessarily would do.
We still talked literally weekly. We still saw each other fairly often. We still slept together occasionally. But we took the pressure to be in a relationship off the board, and did whatever else we wanted to do.
And in 2016, we talked about trying again. On purpose this time. We have very compatible goals, lifestyle preferences, desires for family and how we’d raise them. We are highly compatible philosophically, morally, emotionally. We are both ambitious and have similar or at least complementary values.
So we decided to try again. Yesterday was our 9th anniversary of our first date, but we took basically a year and half break in 2015-2016. It was necessary, and it strengthened both of us. In October of 2016, I told him that we should check in about how the relationship was serving both of us by October of 2017 (my 30th birthday). If the relationship wasn’t working by then, I didn’t want to waste my 30s on it too. He said that was reasonable.
In 2017, we started to get in sync with each other, getting better at this whole serious-relationship thing. We went through some hard decisions together. We made actual commitments, intertwined various personal matters to show “I’m not going anywhere”. October 2017 came and went and I literally forgot to have that conversation with him because it was going so well.
2017 turned into 2018, and in 2018 he asked me to move in with him. I still remember on our very first date in 2012 as we overshared our life philosophies, he told he never planned on living with a partner. I asked him if he intended to have children, he told me probably, I asked how that’s going to work and he said “I don’t know yet” so I said “well, I hope you find someone to have kids with who is willing to help you try to make that work.”
In October of 2018, when he handed me the card containing the key and told me he wanted to share his home with me, I replayed that conversation from our first date back.
We make it work. We are both profoundly independent people - we keep separate bedrooms, though we work together and live together and are deeply entwined in each others’ lives. We give each other lots of space to do what we need.
I’m busy writing this while he finishes up some work so we can spend our anniversary night together, but I love that he came downstairs to see me, gave me a kiss and said “how much time do you need?” and he honors that. We give each other a lot of room - and as a result we better enjoy the stuff where we’re together, making food, watching shows, tripping on mushrooms, talking about our plans.
Yesterday was our 9th anniversary. We’re very happy in love, I love our home together, our community together. I love the way that he supports me in so many of my pursuits, how proud he is that I go to conferences and take photos and give speeches. Of the work we do together, and the company we’re building. I’m proud of him too. I’m proud of us.
But all of that above is simply a replay of a history some of you have witnessed or heard about over the years.
I do think the journey we’ve been on matters - it has shaped us, and strengthened us, and hurt us, and taught us things. Things that hopefully make us better partners to one another.
So here’s a few things more, not just the details of our journey - but about how we journey, that I think are essential to our unit, as This Couple.
We Are Grateful
For years, Judd was really bad at saying “I love you”. He did, occasionally, but it felt like a foreign phrase, and it took years to make him comfortable with it. I’ve never minded - Judd has never made me feel unloved even when he didn’t say the words. Love is a verb, it’s a doing word, and his actions always make me feel adored.
What Judd said for years, in place of “I love you”, was “I’m so grateful for you”. When he does say “I love you” to me, it feels so unbelievably intimate I tear up nearly every time with joy because I know what it means to him when he says it. I never felt a lack with “I’m so grateful for you”, and it has made the other simple phrase so much more tender and vulnerable between us.
But I love that he used “I’m so grateful for you”, because we lead our relationship with gratitude.
There are things in our lives that have become a bit habitual between us. We can both cook our own meals, but I am pickier and I eat more often, so most days, I cook for us. He often helps, but sometimes I just surprise him with food. I do more of the cooking - which is my preference anyway. Regardless, he always thanks me for cooking. He always compliments the food, kisses me on the cheek and thanks me for it. If I’m busy cooking, as I finish up with a pot or a pan, he’s already brought it to the sink, washed it and put it in the strainer. He always washes the cookware, and he generally takes our plates at the end, rinses them and puts them in the dishwasher. I always thank him for doing so. Always.
We work together, and he covers far more of our living expense bills than I do. Yet when I’m busy working on a project with him or for him, when I wrap up my work, he thanks me for it. When he buys anything for the house, I thank him for it. Not to mention actual gifts for one another - of course we are thankful - but every thing we do to make life a little easier for each other, we express our gratitude. If he’s taking out the trash on trash day and I get the downstairs trash cans before he does and start carrying them out, he thanks me (and I thank him for grabbing the heavier bag). If one of us catches the other unloading the clean dishwasher, thanks. It’s an endless chorus of expressed gratitude.
He’s more physically affectionate than I am, so he’ll often express it along with hugs and kisses. This was something I had to adjust to - public displays of affection, being regularly touched and kissed, but it’s been worth it, because he’s my cuddle-bear.
I Could Fight With Him Forever
A few years ago I told a friend that if I had to fight with anyone for the rest of my life, I’d choose Judd. Obviously a relationship isn’t all fighting (and if it is, fucking leave) but there will inevitably be disagreements, and having fought with him over many things, I love how he handles himself.
We have never raised our voices to each other, we have never touched each other in anger, we have never talked shit about each other to other people, we have never used each others’ vulnerabilities as weapons against each other. We know each others’ dark secrets and traumas and triggers and we have never tried to use them to control one another, to disarm one another, to “win” something from the other.
When we broke up for over a year, we only said nice things (or at least not harmful things) about each other while apart. Honestly that was a selling point for “forever” for me. I love that even if years in the future, after kids and lives lived, if we split up, I trust we could be peaceful.
We both highly value de-escalation, and win-win scenarios. This mutual passion for these things aligns our goals as we work out our differences, and build upon our similarities.
We Are Here To Make Each Others’ Lives Better
We have plenty of disagreements. We talk about them. We argue our points, negotiate, even trade “if you’ll give there, I’ll give here”. Everything in our lives is up for discussion, not everything is up for change, but we’ll note each others’ preferences from the minor to the significant and life-changing.
He knows I prefer when he wears shoes, not sandals. I know he prefers my hair in bold reds. He moved me into his home. I occasionally welcome other women into a bed we share.
We have all sorts of personal things we have adjusted slightly for each other - and things we’ve adjusted significantly for each other - for us. Because we are actually here committed to making life better for each other, as well as ourselves.
We built a relationship of trust and enough genuine respect and affection for the other separately, that when we do try to “change” something with each other, it’s a genuine discussion about something we think will serve the other better, or make them happier. We have our own motives and preferences, but we genuinely desire to share them - if something is going to make either of us better at what we do or happier, we genuinely want to share those things with each other and try to accommodate them, for shared purpose, shared improvement, and shared happiness.
We both go out of our way to help each other, with little and big things, whether it’s co-signing for a car loan or cooking a meal when the other is sick. We give.
We Share Values That Matter
Judd and I are both ambitious, striving for success, self-improvement and betterment. We both believe strongly in liberty, in first principles, in questioning “common knowledge”. We both recognize that beating someone in a logical argument is not the same as persuasion or winning someone over. We both deeply value intellectual interests, but that emotional and social needs are also extremely valuable. We value de-escalation, we value repping our friends well. We value win-win scenarios. We value optimism and reason and joy and pleasure.
We are also capable of recognizing when the other has a stronger opinion about something than the other, and are able to be flexible to the one with the stronger preference. I have strong opinions about the way my children are born, raised and educated. Judd has less strong opinions on this matter, trusts my judgement, and would defer to my preferences. Judd has strong opinions about the way our home is kept (cleanliness, organization, more). I have less strong opinions on this matter, trust his judgement, and defer to his preferences. There are others.
We both believe strongly in being able to do anything needed to get something done, but value division of labor to do so more efficiently. Either one of us will roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty when necessary - but also neither of us will judge the other when we outsource it to someone else, because we know we’re capable and also value our own time and money.
We Invest In The Us
One of the worst things I ever said to Judd is “you need to stop just thinking about ‘I’ and embrace the ‘We’”. To an Objectivist, this does not necessarily sit well.
However I didn’t mean it in an “erase individuality”, but more “recognize when you’re starting a business with someone, and have to think about the good of the company alongside your own”.
I consider the entity of AvensJudd/JuddAvens (“Us”) to be a mutual investment, a joint venture to take on the world together, bringing our skills, assets, productivity, mission and more together for a unified, collaborative effort to be more together than we can be apart.
We both invest in ourselves, of course, and we take care of ourselves. But we also invest in Us. This entity that is bigger than either of us, that we both invest in and take from, that we both commit to.
Sometimes one of us is not at our best. Sometimes we’re irritated at each other. Sometimes things are hard. Sometimes we don’t agree. In those moments, I remind myself that I’m not merely committed to him - I’m committed to Us. I remind him sometimes of the same thing. We both know it. It’s something better than just being committed to one person. It’s an idea, and a value, and an entity that is more than either of us will ever be on our own.
I think some people manage to figure this particular entity creation out when they marry and make a family. I think some people still struggle with it even then.
It’s something that I think holds us together stronger when we’re not individually at our best. Together, I like to think we can do anything.
Collaboration - But Also Competition In Its Place
We love working together for a shared goal. However, we both have a little competitive nature in us, and we share a lot of talents. We both take photos at conferences and events - I’d argue he’s a better photographer. We both speak at conferences - I’d lovingly suggest I’m a better public speaker. We have lots of things we do that are similar and interests that are (we’re both very involved in the liberty movement), and it’s not good when we feel competitive in those things - so we stay collaborative. We support each other’s growth in those skills and interests. We support each other’s growths in other skills and interests we don’t share.
But we have to get the competition out somewhere, so we found our outlet: we kick each other’s asses at Nintendo Switch games. Seriously. It is an incredible outlet for us to kick back and compete, swear up a storm, shit-talk each other and more. I usually kick his ass at Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (but he’s solidly good!) and he usually kicks my ass at Super Smash Bros Ultimate (but I’m solidly good!).
We try to take some time regularly to play a few rounds of something to get that competitive energy out, to have fun, to playfully tease each other (he always plays Donkey Kong so in Mario Kart I like to trip him with a banana peel and when he complains I go “I thought monkeys liked bananas!” - and anytime one of us hits the other with a shell we say things like “how could you!? I’d never do that to you!” even though we just did a little bit before.)
We even have playful little “bits” where he doesn’t do as well as me, but insists I must be cheating and he needs to “correct the record” because he’s the one with the perfect score. Then I say “yes, honey, you won, in the way that what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours, so you won because I won. You’re welcome.”
Choosing Every Moment
We’re not the marriage type. I mean, at this point we’re each other’s preference for medical proxy, making ventilator/vegetable decisions, inheriting stuff should we die, and those kinds of things - so over the next few months we’re in the process of at least legally making sure we can do those sorts of things if anything should happen. But marriage has other implications and legal responsibilities neither of us desire.
We'll be together as long as it makes sense to be together - for all the things we want to do - the things we wish to build - the businesses, the family, the legacy.
Forever's an awful long time to commit, but nine years ago I would've said a decade is, and so far it feels like a blink. But I don't say forever.
If forever ends up happening, it will because it was right the whole time, because it worked and we worked at it, because it made sense, because we did it - not because we said we would but because we choose it, every moment, every time. I commit to Us each moment, and every moment collects in a trail behind us, so far lasting years.
To my bear: I will love you as long as we are good for each other, and as long as doing so makes sense for both of us. As long as it gives us both strength, and support, and purpose, and happiness. That's all either of us should promise, or hope for.
All of this is simply our journey. Much of it is unconventional. Much of it is the opposite of what “experts” would advise for finding one’s partner, the person one intends to settle down with. Some of it has moments of being oddly conventional.
It’s just our story. The way we live our lives. The happiness we share. The work we put into it. The effort for something incredible - Us.
As a sometimes stubborn realist, I never say “here’s to forever” in my cards or posts about our anniversary. I say “let’s try for at least [however many years we’re at] more.”
Happy 9th Anniversary, baby, let’s try for at least 9 more.
Extra: Our “Bits”
Every long term couple has comedic “bits” they have together. I feel like these are the things I’ll always remember fondly but also wonder if we’ll forget them over time. It feels like the things we’ll remember and miss in moments when we’re old and one of us is gone first. For some reason I imagine our children telling our grandchildren about our silliness someday. I love ours. Here’s a few.
Judd likes to come up next to me (or lean closer to me when we’re sitting together) and suddenly say “Baby!” like he needs to tell me a secret. Often I’m distracted, but I’ll quickly lean towards him and go “what?” and he’ll kiss my cheek.
I sometimes can't open a jar or a bottle. I'll try. Can't get it. Hand it to Judd.
He'll try. He gets it (I'll hear the click), but doesn't pull the cap off, just loosely leaves it on and hands it back to me saying "I can't get it either!"
I roll my eyes, turn the lid and remove it and he always goes "oh my god, baby you did it!" With the most earnest surprised proud look on his face.
When I worked at Euro Pacific Capital, he’d always call it “Euro Specific Capital” and even now that I don’t work there anymore, if we ever get into silly specifics about anything, he’ll stop me and go “you know why I care? because you/I work at Euro Specific Capital!” (the you vs I depends on which one of us is overexplaining specifics).
When something is ridiculous we call each other “bruh” or “dude”. The rest of the time we call each other “baby”. It’s replaced our names in most instances we talk to each other.
When walking towards a venue (for a show, a restaurant, a store), as we walk, Judd will be beside me and then suddenly "nom" the side of my face (pretending he's gonna bite my cheek and getting me with his stubble). When I shrug away and look at him, he'll grin and raise his eyebrows and go "what happened?". When I give him a look and try not to laugh, he'll go "why are you so weird? Why can't you be normal like me?". As I willfully ignore him trying not to laugh, he'll nom me again. "See? I'm normal!"
In the car, as Judd drives, we listen to music, and he'll reach out for my hand, and bring it to his lips. (He also does this when watching sweet movies with romantic scenes).
Sometimes as he reaches for my hand, I take his and bring it to my lips - except instead of kissing the back of his hand like he does to me, I gently nibble his finger.
Sometime later he'll reach for my hand again, but this time he'll pretend to eat my hand.
Other things I’ve written about us over the years, in case you’re curious (as if this essay wasn’t already a goddamn novel) —
Our First Anniversary: The Bird & The Bear (Aug 2013)
The Lucky Ones (Feb 2014)
The Bear & The Bird Go Separate Ways (Feb 2015)
A Valentine (Again) (Feb 2017)
Togetherness (Feb 2018)
Moved In (Feb 2019)