Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
Chika, 30, and Esther, 28, started off as platonic friends. Nine years into their friendship, Esther realised she had fallen in love, but Chika hadn’t. Today on Love Life, they discuss moving from friends to best friends, and now a married couple who are “joined at the hip”.
What’s your earliest memory of each other?
Esther: That would be at a send forth for a church member. I’m pretty sure we met before then, but nobody seems to remember. If I’m not mistaken, I was 16 and Chika was probably 18 or 19.
Chika: It was at a send forth organised for a church member who was about to japa. I can’t remember a specific date, but I know it wasn’t the first time I was seeing her. I’d met her before then, but at that send-forth, we danced and it sparked something.
Esther: It did not spark anything jor. You were just one of the fine boys in the neighbouring congregations. Nothing serious, at least for me.
I noticed him in the church, we danced together, and somehow we became friends. I wasn’t interested in anything else. I was too busy crushing on the brother of the lady whose send forth we were there for.
LMAO. How did things progress?
Chika: We became friends. We didn’t live too far apart, so I would visit her. I think she visited once, while I was in my mom’s shop helping her sell. But I did most of the visiting. We were young — I can’t remember how old — so it was all very platonic.
Esther: A lot of our meetings happened at the shop. It was at his mum’s shop that he introduced me to poetry. I remember that day. He said, “Let me show you something I wrote.”
I fell in love with his poetry.
His poetry and not him?
Esther: LMAO no, not him. He was still just my very cute best friend.
Chika: And I still saw her as a friend too. But I guess I must have been crushing on her slightly because while her house was close, it wasn’t that close. To make the journey as frequently as I did in those days, there must have been something more than friendship driving me.
Esther: Oh yes, my house wasn’t close at all.
Chika: I think I also had a love interest in those days, so Esther wasn’t in the picture in terms of romance.
Esther: Oh you definitely had a love interest. And you were always talking about her.
He even said we had to meet.
Well, you also said you had a crush on someone else…
Esther: LMAO actually I had even moved from my crush on the brother of the person being sent forth. In fact, I think I was moving from one crush to another. We were teenagers, so that explains a lot.
So when did you two become aware that you had feelings for each other?
Chika: 9 years later.
Esther: 9 years for me, a bit later for him.
Chika: SMH. Oya 9 years and 6 months for me.
How did that happen?
Esther: Well, I was the first to realise I was in love and I didn’t waste any time letting him know how I felt. I mean, I had always loved him as a friend, and now I had fallen in love with him. It seemed so perfect and so I wanted more. But Oga wasn’t there yet and kept saying he probably wasn’t going to get there because he didn’t want to ruin our friendship.
Chika: I have no comments.
Is this code for “there was someone else in the picture”?
Chika: LMAO okay, okay. I had just gotten out of a relationship. Also, I didn’t think I was relationship material and I wasn’t ready to lose my best friend in the process of trying.
Did I mention that we were living together at this point?
Chika: Yes. She had just finished NYSC. By then, we had moved from friends to best friends and we dated other people.
But we always kept in touch. Phone calls, messages, and we also tried to see each other when we could. It was rare though, and it required deliberate effort. You know, being in different universities and all of that.
Esther: He was the first person I would see whenever I entered Lagos. Even before seeing anybody else.
Chika: As per bestie. Then after youth service, she came back to Lagos and would visit often. But then she got a job on the island. I lived close to the job location, so we ended up staying together.
Tell me, Esther, how did you feel staying in the same apartment with someone you had feelings for but who didn’t feel the same about you?
Esther: It was tough, especially because he was extra kind to me and I just couldn’t see us not being together. He would call me all day at work and we would chat in between. Though he wouldn’t admit this, he checked up on me more than he ordinarily. And then when I pointed out that his behaviour towards me was different, in a good way, he’d say that it wasn’t as a result of feelings.
That pissed me off a lot. And then there was the phase where he wasn’t exactly over his ex. So she would come around and I’d have to leave. It was so annoying.
Chika: In my defense, I wasn’t sure and I wanted to be sure. We were living together and I knew it was inevitable, but I was also scared of it not being a conscious choice.
So when did you become sure?
Chika: I travelled to Kaduna for a festival, and it struck me how much sleeping on a bed she wasn’t in was not something I wanted to do. So I came back and asked her to be my girlfriend.
I told her what I had come to realise during my trip and that I wanted her to be my girlfriend. She felt it was too much of a roundabout turn and was asking questions like what changed? I tried to answer. She said she would think about it.
Esther: I’d just decided that I’d roll with his lack of feelings until he was ready and if I could move on, I would.
And then all of a sudden, this uncle comes back from Kaduna and starts saying nonsense about how he can’t live without me.
Chika: After I told her, her response was that she would think about it. She thought about it for all of 30 minutes.
Esther: Well there wasn’t much to think about. My feelings were pretty clear from the onset. You were the confused one. Although a part of me felt like torturing him a bit. Just saying no for the fun of it and making him sweat small. But of course, the whole torture lasted just 30 minutes.
In our next lives, I will show him pepper.
Ah, small small plis.
Chika: After that, it was smooth sailing. I think a part of me knew the girlfriend part was just to go through the proper route. That this was the person I wanted to marry. I can’t say “spend the rest of my life with”, because even without marriage, we are joined at the hip forever. So yeah, we dated, and six or seven months later, we decided to get married.
We got a hotel next to the Ikoyi registry. It almost felt like we were over-prepared for the wedding and the marriage. I had never been surer of anything in my life. I just felt lucky to be marrying my best friend.
Esther: We had two weddings: court and traditional, but the court wedding was it for me. Maybe because it was everything we wanted. No family intervention, no religion involved. And then there was the photoshoot after, it was amazing. Chika looked absolutely handsome. I was smitten.
Aww. How has married life been?
Chika: It’s very hard to explain, but e sweet die. For me, I like the fact the ordinary things of life become more enjoyable when I do them with her. Seeing a movie, eating food, lying down, gisting about the day, gossiping about people — everything just takes on a new colour with her.
Oh and we are also forming our own traditions: shawarma night, movie night, anniversaries, birthdays. A collection of small holidays designed specially for us and by us.
Esther: Married life has been beautiful. There’s something about waking up every day next to the love of your life and knowing that you get to do life with them and that you have a long time to experience life together. That’s a special kind of beautiful, and I am so glad to live in it.
What’s the best part about being married to each other?
Chika: Just knowing that I am home with my person. That’s the best part of it for me.
Esther: Honestly? I don’t know what the best part is. There are too many parts that feel like the best. Just when I think I have unlocked one layer, there is another layer waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
Being with Chika is like being with another version of myself. We’re different, yet so alike in many ways. We have the same ideologies. We’re both somewhat introverted, so on a good day we’ll pick staying indoors and seeing a movie over going out. I’m not a very social person, so just having Chika around to do everything with is great.
What do you love most about each other?
Chika: For me, it’s her kindness, genuineness, and how she cares for me. I am certain of how she feels, and that certainty is like an anchor.
Esther: His heart. Chika is so kind to me. He regularly checks up on me, and on days when I’m extremely busy at work, he makes me breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serves me at my table. During exams, he buys me snacks that I can chew on when reading, chases the cats away so they don’t disturb me, and this support goes a long way to make the studying process easier. He pays attention to my mood too and shows up with ice cream when I’m sad. It’s little, but it goes a long way.
And this kindness is not restricted to me alone. Chika goes out of his way to help people. He’s always willing to help ease whatever is bothering my friends; when he is with his friends, I watch him and I am awed by how he always comes through for them. Daily, I am astonished by how easily kindness comes to him. I’m usually amazed because I’m not sure I can be that kind. Honestly. I am always ready to tear shirt oh, don’t mind him.
Are there things you don’t like about each other?
Chika: She likes saying I told you so.
Esther: LMAO but I am always right, and you don’t listen.
Chika: If my wife tells you something and you don’t do it and it now happens as she said it, she will not leave it oh.
Esther: But it almost always happens as I say it, no?
Chika: Anyway, I think our arguments and fights always lead to a deeper understanding for me.
Esther: See ehn, I think I’d like him to listen more. Chika get coconut head. E no dey hear word. But to tell the truth, even when he’s being a goat, my mind still tells me, “But you love this goat.”
Do you have any approach to de-escalating arguments and fights?
Chika: In the early days, I would get angry and throw words meant to hurt. But she has taught me that we are not fighting each other or we shouldn’t be. So these days, I focus on listening to her when disagreements occur and focus on mending things. I have also learned to listen and change even when I don’t agree immediately. I have had to learn this from her.
Esther: I also used to throw words too and would flare up easily, but I’ve had to learn to take a breather and then come back to discuss the issue when I’m calm. Another thing I’ve learned is to not expect immediate change. Before, I used to expect that he’d just conform to whatever I said, but now I have# learned to give it time and look out for the greys because change isn’t always from black to white. I look out for the little ways that he’s trying to improve and focus on that.
How would you rate the relationship?
Chika: Sweet die.
Esther: Ugh, this man. I don’t think we’re on the scale though LMAO. Over time, we have learned that we can’t rate our relationship. We can only rate moments. And right now I’d say we’re operating at a 10.
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