The first couple in our Fight for Love series, Akili is a writer from Chicago and Daddy is a filmmaker, comedian, and musician from Dublin. Both are based in New York. Read about the love they protect below.
How did you meet, what is your origin story?
AK: We met during college at NYU, at a mutual friend’s 21st birthday party. Daddy was wearing a cheetah print jacket and I remember thinking he had a really cool, retro vibe to him. We talked for a while at the party and I remember thinking he was really kind and easy to talk to (still very true til this day.) We bonded over having dreams of being in the entertainment industry (I was interning for The Fader magazine.) I didn’t really think much romantically of the situation, just saw him as a cool new friend. We began hanging out a lot that summer. We had a lot in common and bonded over those things: we loved just listening to records together, going to the movies. I didn’t really drink and party much so it was nice to have someone who enjoyed similar things as me. We used to do a lot of fun photo shoots together; he would shoot polaroids of me and we’d just get lost in our own world. After a year of being friends, the romantic/intimate side of our relationship grew.
DR: During lockdown I found a photo I shot of Akili from that first night we met. In the photo Akili’s taking care of a friend who had drank too much. Many of my memories from that night are of how much she cares about others. Our first one on one conversation started because I noticed her preparing the surprise cake for the birthday girl in the kitchen. Her thoughtfulness and selflessness really drew me to her. Especially in that time where I was reevaluating many friendships in life and was searching for meaningful relationships. From there, we’d hang all the time and go on random adventures around the city. That year of friendship really gave us a strong foundation.
What challenges did you overcome to have your relationship, or in other words, what made you fight for this relationship?
AK: I credit our strong friendship foundation as the reason for the success in our relationship. I think we’ve had two major challenges so far in our relationship that have made us stronger individually and as a unit. When we first started officially dating, I was in a bad accident and subsequently was battling major PTSD and depression in addition to being physically unable to do much. I think the challenge part, for me, was trusting that someone would want to stay around during this difficult time for me and that someone would love me enough to do so– especially during the beginning of the relationship, which is a time most traditionally known as the honeymoon phase or the ‘happiest’ time in the relationship. I learned a lot about letting go of all these ‘expectations’ I had placed on myself– that I had probably learned through what I had read and watched growing up– and make room for the reality of what a real relationship can look like; and the fact that everyone’s individual and relationship journey is so different. Again, I think being able to accept love and put trust in someone during a hard time for me, goes back to our strong friendship that led us up to being in a relationship. He had shown me how great of a friend he had been up until that point and how loving and supportive he is, so that always got me through. That situation definitely forced both of us to mature in ways we didn’t expect, but looking back, that was a make or break moment and I’m glad we were able to make it through stronger on the other side.
Secondly, the fact that we were quarantined apart ( I was in Chicago and he was in NY) during the pandemic lockdown in 2020 was also super hard. Neither of us (alongside the whole world) expected that situation to happen. We both had agreed before we entered the relationship that we probably never wanted to do long distance, but this situation sort of forced us into something we thought we didn’t want to do/couldn’t handle. It was definitely hard as individuals grow so much in a matter of a year and doing that apart from one another taught/reminded us both a lot about the importance of ‘dating’ your partner at every stage of the relationship; never get too comfortable and think you know ‘everything’ about someone. And don’t think you can stop doing the little things that make yourself and one another feel loved and special! Even if it’s finding new ways to show that from afar. At the end of the day, that’s what keeps the relationship exciting and not boring anyway! lol. We learned to get creative too once we were eventually in the same city again. Before the pandemic, we enjoyed a lot of dates where we had to get out of the house (movies, dinner etc.) and when I came back not everything was opened back up again, so we picked up new fun activities to do together; we love painting at home, cooking more for one another, and I’ve been getting him to stretch with me in the mornings etc. Reimagining what intimacy looks like is super important. Now that things are opening back up again, we appreciate our old favorite pastimes even more and also make it a point to try new ones as well (rock climbing together is on the bucket list next!)
What do you love most about your partner or what do you love most about your relationship?
AK: I love that he encourages me to be more carefree in life and to embrace my individuality. I love that we’re both independent but very supportive at the same time. I can be very in my head sometimes, so it’s nice to be with someone who reminds me to stay present and enjoy myself. He’s super confident, so that reminds me of the beauty of embracing my own confidence and taking up space in life. I also love to laugh and he keeps me laughing all the time. I think we both help keep the other’s inner child alive– we’re both super silly and just love to enjoy life as much as we can. He has a great sense of humor but also knows when to be serious. He’s super attentive to me / attuned to details and that makes him a really thoughtful date planner/gift giver which I really appreciate. At the end of the day, I think we both inspire each other creatively. I remember I was inspired to share more of my poetry publicly when we started dating. I love that he’s non judgmental and I can literally talk about anything; whether it has to do with our relationship or beyond it. He also just makes me feel supported, safe and like I’ll never be lonely because I have someone in my corner who has my best interest, no matter where life takes me. That’s really special.
DR: I love that we’re best friends. Our love comes from a genuine care for one another. A lot of people aren’t friends with their partners. We don’t just care about each other based on what we get in return from one another. We want the best for each other and constantly encourage each other’s dreams. We’re a solid unit yet we embrace our individuality. I’m always surprised in the best ways by where her interests take her. Watching your partner explore all aspects of themselves and their expression never gets old. We’re also so similar yet different and I love that we allow each other to exist in our truths while also learning from our differences. I’m a workaholic so she’s taught me a lot about self care and being in tune with what my mind and body need. Things like vacations and massages, which she loves lol. It’s hard to nail it all down into one thing but I guess it’s just the constant growth as individuals and a unit for me!