Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.
Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their takes on everything from sex to politics right here.
When conversation starts to wane, one of the questions that often comes up with my group of all single friends ironically is ‘what would you do if you found out your partner was cheating’. Over the years the reply to that question has evolved for most of them from ‘dump his ass and burn his car’ to ‘it depends, relationships are complicated’. The woman in this week’s interview can relate to the latter. After finding out her partner of 3 years had cheated on her, she was quick to forgive. The only problem is she’s having a hard time forgetting.
Okay, I have to ask: five years ago what would you have said or done if you found out he cheated?
Lol, I don’t even need to think up a hypothetical answer for this. Five years ago I was 22 and in a relationship with someone who cheated from the day we started dating till the day we broke things off. But I didn’t know at first, acquaintances who knew used to hint at it. I’d say Femi* said he’s going to be at his parents’ house all day today, and they would ask me if I was sure. Anyway, one of the many women who he was cheating with finally ‘came to me as a woman’ armed with pictures and receipts of their time together. I thanked her and blocked her. Then I forwarded everything she sent to him. He started calling immediately. I hung up and blocked him too. That was the end of that.
Okay, let me backtrack. Tell me a little about your current relationship.
We met during NYSC camp. We flirted a lot but nothing ever happened. After camp we remained very friendly; we’d meet up for lunch or go to the movies occasionally. I think he was seeing someone else casually then but he never mentioned it. Almost a year after we first met, the lunch and movie dates became more frequent. We also started having sex.
I’m not a ‘let’s just see where this is going’ type of person. A month or two after we started having sex, I asked him point-blank ‘what are we doing?’ He gave me a speech about how he has all these feelings for me. I told him ‘yeah that’s nice, are we in a relationship or not?’ He laughed, kissed me and said ‘yes you are my girlfriend’.
That was three years ago and it has been mostly smooth sailing since then. He’s the sweetest, smartest, most considerate person I’ve ever met. The year we started dating, I was job hunting and he wasn’t. He carried my job hunting wahala on his head, sending out my CV to people, following up and everything. It’s hard to admit but he might have put in more effort than I did because the job I eventually settled on was through him.
That’s really sweet. Did anything about him or the relationship ever give you pause?
Shortly after our first year anniversary, he started hinting at open relationships a lot. He’d send me links to articles or tweets talking about how healthy and fantastic open relationships were. He’s very curious, so I thought nothing about it at first. I thought he just found it fascinating. After one month of consistently getting hints, I finally asked him if that was what he wanted. He said not really but he thought it’d be fun to experiment with it for a month or two. I wasn’t having it at all. We got into a huge fight and I told him if he wanted to sleep around he should grow some balls, break up with me and go do so. He apologised and begged that it was just an idea he was toying around with and how our relationship was the most important thing to him.
How did you feel about him suggesting an open relationship?
I felt very hurt and betrayed at first. I kept on thinking was I not enough for him. I didn’t have a lot of sexual experience when we first started dating. So obviously I felt very insecure when he basically told me he wanted to sleep with other people. But after I calmed down, we had a really long, honest talk about it and I understood where he was coming from. This is the longest relationship he has ever had. He usually dated for a couple of months, got bored and moved on. But with me, he didn’t want that. He admitted that he was getting a little restless especially sexually. But at the end of the day, I and the relationship came first. I wanted to be offended by him saying he was restless, but it’s only human nature. He’s the second person I’ve ever had sex with it. In fact, the first person barely counts. So when I meet an attractive man I can’t say the thought doesn’t cross my mind. Which was why we considered hall-passes.
So a hall-pass is a free pass for the holder to have sex with anyone else they feel like just one time. There has to be full disclosure about all the details and once you’ve used it up, any sexual activity you engage with, even with the same person you had sex with during the pass, counts as cheating. He agreed to it at first, but the more we talked about the details the more reluctant he became. I’m very organised I like lists and stuff so anytime we talked about it I’d write down the terms and conditions we were agreeing to so no one could backtrack. He said I seemed too eager to go sleep with someone else and he didn’t want it again.
To be clear he didn’t want you to sleep with someone else or he didn’t want the hall pass?
Both. He said the more we talked about it, the more he realised that he was content and that restless sexual thoughts were normal but didn’t have to be acted upon if you are disciplined and really love your partner. And I agreed, I was perfectly content with having sex with just him and he said the same
I’m guessing this conversation happened before you found out he cheated?
My sister, yes o. Men are not okay. We started having this conversation in the 13th month of our relationship. We came to the conclusion that open relationships in any form weren’t for us in the 15th month of our relationship, I found out he cheated two years and seven months into the relationship.
How did you find out?
In the most cliche way. I found an earring in his bed that was definitely not mine. It was a small one like the type you’d put in a third piercing — I only have two regular piercings. When I asked him about it, he blamed it on a male cousin who visited him occasionally. He said sometimes the cousin came with girls. But I knew how his relationship was with that cousin and I knew that he’d never have allowed him to have sex with a girl in his bed. I let it go because he pulled the ‘don’t you trust me’ card. I knew he didn’t like the cousin but it wasn’t sha impossible for what he said to have happened. After this, I became on guard: every call or message that entered his phone made me suspicious.
We knew each other’s passwords. So a week after I found the earring he was in the bathroom and I went through his phone. I’m not proud of it. He had deleted most of his chats except the ones with me and family. I was about to drop it when a ‘hey you’ message from a Funke* came in. That was all she sent nothing else but in my heart, I knew. When he came out of the bathroom I looked him straight in the eye and said I know you slept with Funke* and I’m done with this relationship. He started crying, went on his knees and started begging me. I started crying too because even as I said that I knew he had sex with Funke* a part of me held out hope that I was wrong.
I left his house and didn’t take any of his calls or reply to any of his messages for about a week. He told all of our mutual friends we got into a fight and they should help him beg me. He sent long epistles every day about how much he loved me, how it was a stupid mistake that only happened once and how it’ll never happen again. He kept begging to see me one more time at the very least. I finally agreed, we had a conversation and I decided to give it another go.
I’m really curious about how that conversation went.
Lol, there was a lot of crying. He did most of the talking; he said he wanted to be open with me and he’d do anything to get me to trust him again. He gave me the passwords to all of his social media accounts and email. He said he needed me to be able to know for sure that it would never happen again and that was the only way he knew how to. I’ve still never used them, so I don’t even know if he has changed them now. After the conversation, I told him I needed a bit of space. That I had forgiven him but I just needed some time.
Two weeks later, I was packing an overnight bag to go and sleep in his house. In the two weeks that I didn’t speak to him, I felt like I was punishing myself more than I was punishing him. I was so miserable, I wasn’t eating or sleeping properly. And he was sending the sweetest texts and gifts throughout. This whole thing was eight months ago and we’ve been mostly fine since then. We are currently quarantined together sef.
He swears he will never do it again but a part of me is just braced, waiting for it to happen. At the same, I don’t want it to happen. I avoid his phone like a plague I don’t want to see anything that’ll trigger my suspicions. I might be living in denial, but I think I’d rather do that than find out he’s cheating.
Because I’m an ode in love. It’s very hard to imagine my life without him. We’ve grown very co-dependent on each other. We’ve been talking about marriage, kids and our future together. And I know he loves me too. Every day he takes out the time to tell me how much he loves me and how much I mean to him I can tell that he’s still regretful and remorseful. But I don’t know if he’s regretful that he got caught or regretful that he cheated.
I think I’ve forgiven him now but I’m just having a hard time forgetting. Sometimes when I remember, I become very cold and mean towards him. I’d do petty things like refuse to have sex with him for a week or two. Or just ignore his calls and messages for a whole day. I know these things really hurt him and I don’t want to hurt him, I just get so angry when I remember. Two months ago we talked about marriage again and he brought up the fact that he thought I hadn’t forgiven him yet for what he did. He says he’s ready for marriage when I am, but I have to forgive him first. I told him I had forgiven him I was just having a hard time forgetting. I love him and I know I’ll get there eventually.