Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
Charles*, 31, and Rukky*, 30, have been together for a little over a decade. For today’s Love Life, they talk about opening their marriage, dating other people as a unit and why communication is the most important thing.
What’s your earliest memory of each other?
Rukky: This was around 2009. We were in the same faculty and had mutual friends, so we always ran into each other. The day I noticed that I liked him, however, was when I tagged along with a friend to his place.
We talked for a bit about a bunch of different topics, and I just found him interesting.
Charles: One of my friends invited me to a birthday party, and Rukky came with another of our friends. We started talking then, but apparently, she don dey eye me since. This is the story I’m sticking to.
Wait. These are two different scenarios.
Charles: LMAO. Yes. She had come to my house a day or two before the birthday party, but I didn’t really notice her. You know this thing where you see your guy with a chick, but you don’t really see her? Like, she’s just another bro? Yeah.
When did you stop seeing her as “just another bro”?
Rukky: When he gave me penis. LOL.
Charles: LMAO. One day, I saw her outside, and she looked so hot. Her legs just kept going and going and going — they seemed to go on forever. I spent about 30 seconds gawking at her, and that’s when I stopped seeing her as a bro.
I knew I wanted to be all up in her guts.
LMAO. What happened next?
Charles: I had to make sure we were on the same page. Thankfully, she was feeling the boy already. The next thing I did was to talk to the guy I met her with. I didn’t want it to seem like I snatched his babe, so I went to him as a man.
He said they were just friends, and it was fine for me to toast; something I had already started doing.
Rukky: Since we always ran into each other, I never made concrete plans to see him; I just knew I would. Then we started chatting on Facebook regularly and hanging out at events. We just kept spending more and more time together.
When were feelings caught?
Charles: I’m not sure. We both came into this not wanting anything serious; it was just meant to be fun. Once her neighbours in the hostel knew my name, we knew it was getting serious.
We were spending more time together than apart. She said she loved me for the first time while we were having sex, but I ignored it. You can’t trust anything a woman says while getting pipe.
Well, it turns out she was serious. It took me a bit longer to get there despite having the same feelings. Moving away from the “We’re just having fun” mindset into an “I love you” one was hard.
Rukky: I didn’t plan to put any expectations on him, but I also needed him to know that my feelings were getting strong; I could see that his were too. So, I wanted to know if it was what I thought or if I’d need to begin curbing my feelings.
Even if he didn’t feel the same, I was ready to remain friends. I just needed to know.
When did it become official?
Charles: The minute I said, “I love you.” You don’t say that kind of thing and then act like you’re not dating. I sort of feel bad I never asked her out officially. I feel like we let many of our relationship milestones happen organically.
No big “Be my girlfriend” or “Be my wife” speech. She is against big shows.
Rukky: That’s why I love our relationship. Everything has been effortless.
How long did you date before you got married?
Charles: For about six years. We moved in together very early though.
What was dating like?
Rukky: It was like hanging out with my best friend all the time. We had so much fun, and even the not-so-fun times were spent together. We helped each other through everything, and we were always there for each other.
Sometimes, I don’t blame our families for the way they reacted to us.
How did they react?
Rukky: I think they felt we were too intense. They still feel that way. We were in our little bubble, and they felt left out. I see how that kind of dynamic could go very wrong, but in our case, it went right.
Charles: Yeah. I mean, try introducing a woman to your mother for the first time with the line: “This one is going to be my wife.” It was shock and one million questions about tribe and all of that. I’m a stubborn goat, so I shut that down really early.
Our parents say we’re not really married, we’re just friends living together.
Rukky: LMAO. We still do everything together — the same way we did as boyfriend and girlfriend. I get why it worried them. It’s like giving birth and 25 years later, you somehow see your single kid as a conjoined twin.
It might be why we find it easy to handle more people. We are essentially one unit.
Charles: Wow. I never thought about it like that. You see why I married you, smarty pants.
Wait. What do you mean by “handle more people”?
Rukky: Our marriage is open, so handling more people in our relationship.
Oh? What’s that like?
Charles: It’s not open in the way most people immediately think. Yes, you can sleep with other people, but you have to have a conversation about the person first. The other partner has to be completely fine with it for it to happen.
Interesting. When did you decide to open your relationship?
Charles: Hard to say. As with most things in our relationship, it happened organically. It developed from honest conversations about the people we fancied and our confidence in our relationship.
Rukky: It was probably within the first few years. Around that time, I was owning my bisexuality, and he was willing to follow me on that journey. It kind of evolved from that into an open relationship.
Rukky, tell me about the journey of owning your bisexuality?
Rukky: So, I’ve always known I like men and women, but I thought I had to choose one. I chose men. I still felt the attraction to women, but I thought I couldn’t pursue that. With Charles, I found that I could.
I started letting myself appreciate the bodies of women. I would beg Charles to gist with women I found attractive so he could find out if they swung that way. Sometimes they agreed, sometimes they didn’t.
It took me a while to get comfortable with sleeping with women. The first woman I ever slept with was with Charles in a threesome. I’ve grown since then, and I’ve had different kinds of relationships with women, but they’re usually with Charles.
Charles: Yeah. Threesomes made the option of opening our marriage palatable. They were a way for us to understand the dynamic. Funnily enough, I think we’re both lowkey still in love with the first babe we had a threesome with.
Charles: Yeah. We’re friends. We hang out whenever we can, but it’s not a relationship.
So, there have been relationships with other people?
Rukky: Yeah. We are dating someone right now — it’s lasted for over a year.
Charles: The plan was just to have a threesome oh, and we ended up in a relationship. LMAO. This is becoming a thing in my life. I start off wanting to just get laid and end up in a long-term relationship.
How does having a third partner in the marriage work?
Charles: It’s definitely different. You know, it’s one more person. We have to make her feel like an active member of the relationship, even though we don’t see her as much as we’d like — she lives in a different city.
So, it’s about communication, lots of communication. All the time.
Rukky: It’s been really good though.
Have you dated anyone else?
Rukky: Not really. This has been our longest and most intentional relationship.
Charles: Yeah. The others didn’t really count as dating.
Do you always sleep with other people as a unit?
Charles: Not always, but that’s mostly the case. The preference is sleeping with people together, but once in a while, I meet a woman that’s as straight as an arrow. Then I have to decide whether I want to sleep with her alone or not at all.
The answer is usually not at all, but there have been exceptions.
Rukky: I prefer when we do it as a unit. It’s easier, and to be honest, more enjoyable.
What’s the hardest thing about being open?
Charles: In the beginning, it was jealousy for sure. Talking to your partner about sleeping with another person is not easy. There was some initial awkwardness on my part.
Even with some of those bumps in the road, one thing that remained constant was communication. I truly believe that once the communication is steady, you can work through anything.
Rukky: Yeah. We took it one step at a time. We talked at every stage and constantly checked in with each other. Plus, we remain accountable to ourselves and each other. That has helped a lot.
How has this dynamic affected your marriage?
Charles: It has made the relationship more loving and honest. We can separate sex with other people from the relationship we have. What’s important is our marriage and that it stands the test of time.
Rukky: Communication is so much more important to us, and that’s helped us become closer, which I didn’t think was possible. We understand each other a lot better, and I hope we continue understanding each other.
What about fights? Have there been any?
Charles: It’s mostly about Rukky feeling excluded. I’m more hands-on with our women, so it often feels like I have a better relationship with them — like, we have a deeper bond that is independent of her. It’s not something I agree with, but I understand it.
Rukky isn’t really about social media, and that’s how you keep in touch with people these days. So, I tend to communicate with our women more often, which contributes to how those relationships evolve.
To make her feel more included, we ensure we discuss everything.
Rukky: Exactly. Whenever there is an issue, we discuss it. If anyone does something the other doesn’t like, we talk about it. We rarely fight because we endeavour to be honest, and it’s usually easier to sort things out when the truth is on the table.
I deal with feeling excluded on a case by case basis, but mostly, I talk to him about it and trust in what we have.
What do you love the most about each other?
Charles: If I say she has a fat ass now, you’ll say I’m being silly. But seriously, she is a great human being. She sees the world with child-like wonder, admiration and hope. Her mere presence makes the worst days so much better.
Rukky: I love everything about him, but if I had to pick one thing, it would be his open-mindedness. I wasn’t sure I’d find anyone, besides my family, that was truly open-minded. Then I found him, and now, we are family.
He also has the ability to further open your mind. Being with him is like visiting a new city.
That’s so sweet. How would you rate your relationship on a scale of 1 to 10?
Rukky: If I say 100, this man will call me an illiterate, so I’ll say 9 on the bad days and 10 on the good.
Charles: I’ll give it a 9 because, as a Nigerian professor would say, 10 is for God. And also, you need to have something to aim for.
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