9 Nigerians Talk About Dating People Outside Their Faith

March 18, 2021

What does it mean to date someone of a different faith, especially in a country like Nigeria where religion is a major topic? For this article, I spoke to 9 Nigerians who shared their stories with me. And for the first time, I found myself wondering if love truly conquers all.

Ndidi.

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I dated a Muslim guy for roughly 2 years, and it was actually a really nice relationship. He is Hausa and I am Igbo, so it was weird at first because we seemed like two very different people. But it was lovely for the most part.

We were very supportive when it came to each other’s religion, and during Ramadan, I stayed up with him for Sahur when he had to wake up and eat. I would and gist with him till he needed to pray and go to bed. He was also very supportive with my fasts and holidays too.When we had questions about the other’s religion, we would ask and educate each other without judgment or without any aggression. I personally loved hearing him talk about the Quran.

When I was with him though, I had to forgo alcohol for a while because he doesn’t drink and he couldn’t pay for it if he took us out. He also couldn’t buy me human hair. He said something about it being haram. But he was very respectful of my decisions and never tried to force anything on me. Eventually, the relationship ended. He wasn’t ready for commitment and I had to move on from that. Till today though, we are really good friends with each other.

Kafayat.

I am from a family of mixed religious backgrounds. My mum is a Christian and even though my father is an Alhaji, his own mother is a Christian. I grew up aware of these religions, so I never really had a problem with either of them. When I eventually converted to Christianity, I retained my Muslim name since it’s my first name. It was all cool until it was time for me to get married.

My mother-in-law said she was upset during the introduction when the Alaga said “Welcome to the house of Alhaji.”

She told me, later, that it felt like a bell was being rung in her head when she heard that. According to her, she was okay as long as the wedding was done in her church RCCG, and that she doesn’t want a nikkai.

That’s when I spoke up. My dad is liberal because he has a Christian mum. But how will I tell him, an Alhaji who has gone to Mecca 5 times, that his first daughter would be married in RCCG and not my mother’s church which is Anglican, or even a mosque?

That’s how the battle started. She told her son that if he marries me, his ‘enemy’ will die, and that ‘they want to Islamise him.

After we won that battle of the church to be married in, my mother-in-law said “Is there a way that the name Kafayat won’t be on the wedding IV?” She also said I should try and make sure that the chairman of the wedding would be a Christian, and that I should influence my dad not to bring his Muslim friends.

Even though I married into the family, I did not change my surname. My husband thinks I am doing feminism, but it is because his mother refused to let me keep mine on my wedding invitation. If she is ashamed of my name being in the wedding IV, then they might as well keep their surname.

The wedding chairman was a Muslim who has a Christian wife he’s been happily married to for 50yrs without needing to convert the wife. After the wedding, my mother-in-law kept throwing jabs like “You know my son was raised in a Christian way.”

But guess what? The said son is now an agnostic who is gradually becoming an atheist. Three years later, I’m the one going to church. My mother-in-law wants me to drag him but each time she says it, me too, I remind her that “I was raised a Muslim, so I don’t know how to win souls.”

For me and my husband, the constant thing is that he makes me cook pork. I hate pork because it is fatty, but he would say it’s because I used to be a Muslim. We intend to raise my kids Liberal.

Damilare.

I started dating my girlfriend towards the end of 2017. I was still a very committed Christian at the time. But by the second half of 2018, I left the faith. I wasn’t hurt by anyone, neither did I fall into bad times. I just gave a honest look at the things I believed in and was convinced of since childhood and realised I had no rational justification for them.

Anyway, the problem was how to tell my girlfriend. At this time, we were very serious about our plans, dreams, and future together. Some of these things were centred around our faith, which I had now left. I knew I couldn’t hide something that important from her even though I was scared of losing her. She wouldn’t want to be ‘unequally yoked’ with an unbeliever like me. I concluded that moving on with the relationship like nothing significant had changed would be unethical. It would be changing the terms of the relationship without her knowledge or consent.

So, I mentally prepared for a break-up. And told her. I started by gently explaining why I no longer believe. It was the first time I’d share it with anyone. I didn’t call myself an Atheist — I didn’t want to trigger her. I just wanted to be heard without any unnecessary bias creeping in. She was devasted. I remember the hurt in her voice when she said, “So you won’t pray with me again?” It broke my heart since this was something we shared together. She didn’t make the decision to break up then, but she told me it was a deal-breaker.

The next few weeks were tense. But after reading about Atheist-Christian couples on the internet, I decided I wasn’t going to allow religion end us. I spent more time just being myself with her — caring, honest, understanding. I focused on the things we shared in common, reminded her that I was still the person she fell in love with. I also made a few compromises. I agreed to go to church with her once a month (though that changed with the pandemic). When she forgets a verse, I help out. I remind her to attend her online meetings. We are not trying to convert/deconvert each other. When pastors goof online, I don’t rub it in her face — though we might have conversations about it. She lets me know even though she’d prefer a different outcome, she’s still in love with me and committed to us.

The relationship is over 3 years now. We’re getting ready to marry, hopefully, this year. We have talked about kids, how we raise a family. We hope to let them make their choices while focusing on raising healthy, stable kids. We still talk about religion. I don’t think that conversation will ever end. But it’s a conversation with love, respect for each other.

Franca.

I am a polytheist dating an atheist. I believe all Gods exist, my boyfriend believes none exist. I think our common ground is that we both trash talk Christianity, Islam, and major traditional worship. I draw the line at astrology though. Astrology has not caused anyone actual hurt. My ex at the time used to laugh at me and my “astrology.” She told me I was being silly. My boyfriend however realises how important this is for me. He joins me to meditate if I ask, and when I tell him I pray for him, he tells me thank you. He knows it’s something that gives me peace and purpose and he respects that. Would that stop him from dissing religions in my presence? No. Do I join in? Yes. Because as much as I acknowledge these religions give me peace, I also acknowledge that they’re shit. And failed a lot of people.

Favour.

I was a tongue-speaking Christian in my university days and I dated this Muslim babe. Or maybe a situationship is the right word for it. We ended up going our separate ways because she tried converting me and I wasn’t standing it for it. In hindsight, it’s funny because I eventually explored Islam, and now I am irreligious.

Abdul.

I’m an agnostic atheist: I have a clear disbelief in the existence of God and I don’t participate in organised religion. However, I was born a Muslim. My girlfriend is a Muslim, with big hijab and all. A mutual friend introduced her to me and we clicked. Back when I met her, I was still a Muslim although I was skeptical about it.

I had no reservations or hesitation about her religion at first; many of my family members are also Muslims. But as time went on, I became more vocal in my apathy to religion and God. I have a Twitter account where I post Atheist stuff and all, and this causes issues between the both of us.
We try to make things work out but it was a big issue at the end of the day. She might be praying while I’m eating. I try to compromise though, I pray when she’s around, participate in Ramadan fasting, etc.

Her sister is the wahala, always trying to stop things. Our parents are not aware of anything. And since I still use my Arabic Muslim name. I still put on the facade of a Muslim for them.

I can’t say where the relationship is going, but marriage is probably not going to work.

Similoluwa.

I am a Christian — a pastor’s kid with every nerve, bone, and fibre dipped in anointing oil. He is an Eckist, he attends Eckankar, but he’s a rather unserious member.

We met while I was in medical school through a friend and we hit it off immediately. At first, we unanimously decided to be friends with benefits and I was all out for it. I guess it was the pastor’s kid part of me that wanted something interesting and quite different from the conservational upbringing I had. I wanted to experiment and explore. Our FWB relationship lasted all through my last year in medical school and then we fell in love.

He’s the type of guy who has a Ph.D. in curbing his emotions and I am okay with it. But then, I believe even the strongest of “hard guys” fall when they witness someone they really like fighting to stay alive in and out of the hospital, several times. This was what happened to us. Neither of us knew when the feelings started nor when it blossomed beautifully but early this year we knew something had shifted, and we were deeply in love with each other. But I am a Christian. And he is an Eckist.

Yes, I’ve had the ‘do-not-be-unequally-yoked-with-unbelievers’ mantra play repeatedly in my head. In fact, I wanted to end it at a point, but I couldn’t. Local girl was already in love, but let me not lie, he’s empathic, kind, loving, sacrificial. All of this was what kept me going despite the disparity in beliefs. I have been in previous relationships where, once they learnt about my health challenges, they left. But he stayed, and this is one of the reasons I am holding him close because, with him, I’ve never felt healthier.

While we were still friends, my mother discerned somehow (I still wonder how) that he’s Eckist and she advised me to break things off, but I didn’t. He happens to be my brother’s friend and all my brothers are all cool with it, except my eldest brother who isn’t aware.

He’s quite understanding, so we haven’t really made any compromise. I tell him I’m going to church and he says jokingly, ‘pray for me’. The one thing neither of us does though is throw jokes about our religions; that’s a sensitive one.

We have come a long way and we have several long ways to go. Do I know how to work out the kinks of telling Popsy and Momsy about him when the time comes? I honestly don’t know. Being the only girl with a lot expected of me in the marriage department, I try to not let the pressure get to me. Right now, I am just basking in the realisation of knowing there’s a gorgeous black man who has my back at all times and is undeterred by the health challenges present.

Blessing.

I’m a Christian who is currently in a relationship with a fellow Christian from of those very conservative denominations. His dad is an elder in their church, and his older brothers are in the ministry. One is a pastor, the other one is an evangelist. His mother is a Sunday school teacher.

The first time I spoke with her, she gave me rules and regulations on what is applicable in their family. Me I was shocked oh. Like, excuse me ma, it’s your son I’m dating. What are all these rules?

According to her, I’m supposed to burn my trousers, no fixing of nails or hair, no earrings or make-up, and I have to join their church and do away with my evil worldly non conformist friends. I sha said yes ma to everything she said, but there’s no way I’m abiding by man’s doctrines.

I won’t lie, it’s been tough though trying to manage his family. I remember the first time I visited his elder brother. They had a one-year-old baby girl who was running from me. Normal children’s behavior, as usual, but the mother kuku chalked it up to the fact that I fixed my nails and that her daughter doesn’t like such. Me sef I smiled and said “Ehya, the baby would have to get used to it oh, cause aunty likes long nails.”

I’ve been at the receiving end of obtuse judgment. They make me feel like I’m unworthy and not even a Christian. And it’s even more annoying to think that we’re all Christians with different doctrines but I’m somehow viewed as a sinner.

My only consolation is that my boyfriend is more accommodating and he is more receptive and tolerant.

Remilekun.

I am a Muslim, but I have dated out of my religion four times. The first was the hardest. He was Celestial, and they were calling him Cele Boy in our house. It was like a war. My mom gave me serious issues with him. I am very stubborn so I went ahead anyway. The boy was so patient too.

When her birthday came, he made her a very big cake. We threw a surprise party for her together. By then, he had already won my siblings’ hearts. He’s a very playful and jovial person so it wasn’t hard. As for my mom, she was bothered about what her family members will say so it was something else entirely.

The breakthrough was one day I was with him and then I got a call that I should come home ASAP. He rushed home with me and we saw that my mom had fainted. He literally carried my mom on his back to the car and paid all hospital bills before my dad came. The next day when my mom felt better she was very grateful and never complained about our relationship again. In fact, they became so close that he would visit her when I was not home and they would gist for hours. But then we broke up.

When my mom heard that the next one was Christian again, she wasn’t having it. She said, ‘I let you have your way the first time, can’t you do what I want for once?’ I said, ‘I can’t because you can’t live another 60 years and I will be stuck in a marriage I entered to please you.’ This time, the fight was more serious. We weren’t speaking to each other. If she talked to me, it was to insult me or to say something savage.

I was working then, so I would leave home very early and not come home after work. I would go out with friends till very late just so I could come late and avoid her. But she always found me. She would talk and talk, I would have to block my ears just so I could sleep.

She even told my aunt in Abuja. That one called me one early morning, told me to open the Quran and started quoting Quranic verses. I can’t remember it in full details now, but it’s the one that says ‘they are not part of us and we are not part of them.’

You can’t imagine how sad I was. Someone that doesn’t understand you or know your struggles, calling you to advise you on something as important as your relationship. After that call, I renewed my energy for fight with my mom. The hypocrisy annoyed me. Her best friend is a Christian, for crying out loud. I was mad at her for discussing my matter with people I wasn’t close to.

She had decided to have her way this time, and I had decided to have mine too. I called her sister who I’m close with and explained to her. I told that one that my dad is a Muslim yet he doesn’t pray. He only remembers God when he’s broke. Is it about just being a Muslim by name? The fight went on for a long time.

My mom hates not knowing what’s happening in her children’s lives so we settled eventually and she gave me conditions. She said if I marry him we must do Nikkah. I said I agree. We must cut our children’s hair when we born according to Muslim rites, I said I agree. She gave some other conditions which I agreed to cos the guy I was dating was very flexible.
That was how we settled that one. But then we broke up and I met the third one who turned out to be a Christian too.

There was no issue with that one because by then she had already gotten used to it. But then we broke up too, and presently I am dating another Christian.

QUIZ: What Kind Of Relationship Works For You?



Kunle Ologunro

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