The topic of how young Nigerians navigate romantic relationships with their earnings is a minefield of hot takes. In Love Currency, we get into what relationships across income brackets look like in different Nigerian cities.
The first day Stephen* (28) met Barbara* (22) in 2017, he told his friends he had met his wife. Many boxer gifts, shared bank passwords and a breakup later, he’s convinced he made the best decision with her.
Occupation and location
Filmmaker living in Kaduna
Average monthly income
I make anything between ₦300k – ₦500k monthly, depending on the frequency of the jobs.
Hotel getaways: ₦48k per month (₦7k – ₦8k per night; ₦4k for food per day, for four nights)
Samsung phone: ₦55k
Birthday painting: ₦25k
Occasional dates: ₦15k – ₦20k
Random cash gifts: ₦10k multiple times a month and on birthdays
How did you meet your girlfriend?
In 2017, my friend’s mum had an event for her NGO and needed us to be in charge of videos. On my way to the lodge, which was in the same building as the event, I met this pretty girl wearing a white and black uniform. I asked her what the uniform was for. I had assumed it was a convent, having seen other girls in the same uniform. But she explained it was a culinary school uniform. We exchanged names, and I told her I was there for the event.
When we ran into each other some hours later, we couldn’t really talk because I was trying to shoot the lunch break, but I told my friends I had found my wife.
Before then, I was determined to focus on my career and avoid distractions. But when I met her, I found myself drawn to her and I couldn’t say why.
On the last day of the event, the guys went to the club while I stayed back to work on the videos. I was going over some pictures on my friend’s camera when I saw Barbara in the background of an image he’d taken. I was so excited because I could finally show my friends the girl I had been talking about. I decided to go to the culinary school to look for her. But I got there early in the morning to find the school closed.
I waited till Monday before I went back and begged my friend to accompany me because I was beginning to feel nervous. We got to the school and tried to ask for her from some girls we saw. The school didn’t allow male visitors, so I lied I was her brother.
Abraham, is that you?
Luckily, she showed up as I was trying to describe her. I had gotten her name wrong from the start.
She gave me her number, and I left. I tried to call her for a week, but she never picked up. She eventually sent an SMS to apologise. I can’t remember the exact content, but seeing “Sorry dear” was enough to have me grinning from ear to ear all day. I asked her for her Facebook handle, and we became friends.
When did the relationship start?
A year later. At least, that’s when it became official. Wed spent the day together, and on the bus home, she reminded me I had still not asked her out. So I asked her to be my girl.
Did anything change after that?
No. It felt like we had been dating already because we were involved in each other’s lives, talked every other day and made out occasionally. The change came when I started to make money.
Before, when she needed money, my only input would be to say we should pray about it. But now, I can meet her needs to an extent.
The first time we met after getting her number, I had just ₦30 with me. She had come to meet me at this restaurant close to the culinary school, where my friends and I went to work. I couldn’t afford a drink, so my friend bought one for her. Two days later, she came again. This time, the producer got drinks for both of us. I told her who had paid on both occasions, and she thanked them accordingly.
When did the money start coming in?
By 2018, I had started getting gigs to shoot music videos for upcoming artists and also covering more events, so I could afford proper dates. Before I got my own place, we used to have these hotel visits. I would go there because I needed light to work, and she’d visit. The rooms were about ₦7k – ₦8k per night, and we spent about ₦4k per day on food. We were there for two days, at least, twice a month.
She doesn’t like to eat out. So if we went out, it’d mostly be for a drink and maybe roasted chicken. We’d spend hours gisting and talking about different people around us. A proper date for us meant we’d drive out to buy the things we needed — wine, goat meat, chicken, plantain, water — and go home to cook and eat. On average, that’d cost ₦15k. I’ve learnt to budget ₦15k – ₦20k for our dates, and whenever we spend under the budget, I’d either gift her what was left or buy foodstuffs, like she always advised.
She’s always thinking of how I should have invested or saved money instead of spending it. I’ve had to repeatedly remind her that she can ask me if she needs anything.
So you have conversations about money?
All the time. She knows everything about my finances. I’m so transparent with her because I don’t see the need to hide anything from someone I plan to spend the rest of my life with. I help her with negotiations when she has cooking jobs, and I give her money to keep for me — ₦150k here, ₦250k there. My ATM card can even be with her.
So she knows your pin?
We use the same pin.
Are you playing? Do you give her gifts?
I’m not the best at giving gifts, but I randomly buy her sneakers because she loves them. They cost ₦5k because they’re imported from Cotonou. Aside from that, I’d rather just send her money, the occasional ₦10k, up to three times a month or less — depending on how frequently I get jobs.
After this really big job I did in 2022, I gave her ₦220k to get an iPhone 11. She was okay with her Samsung, so it took some persuasion to change it. Thinking about it, I had gotten her the Samsung a10 in 2018, when we started dating. It cost me ₦55k.
How do you celebrate special occasions?
I can’t think of any time we celebrated Valentine’s Day , but our birthdays are usually the same. For mine, she’d come over with drinks while I get the cake. Then she’d cook, and we’d share with my neighbours. She always tries to buy me things. Last year, I was out of town for work, but she still went to my house to share drinks to my neighbours. I returned days later to find a new wallet, perfume, body care set and boxers — she gets me boxers every year, and I love them. Apart from her first birthday, when I gave her a painting that cost ₦25k, I’ve sent her ₦10k on her other birthdays.
I got really lucky with her. I’ve seen girlfriends steal from their boyfriends, but she never takes my money without permission, not even when we broke up.
In 2019, I was practically living in Abuja because I was managing a studio there. But it didn’t feel like long distance because our regular video calls lasted hours. During that time, she started talking to this new male friend I had warned her about. By 2020, when I returned to Kaduna, I found out she’d been going out with him.
How did you find out?
I was with her phone when his message notification came in. So I read their chats and saw that she had sent him pictures she had taken before she came over to my place — nothing explicit, but she had deleted them from her gallery. I waited till she was on her way home before I texted her that I had seen the pictures she sent him, and she called me apologising.
A few weeks later, she came over, and I was using her phone’s hotspot for work when it stopped working. While I was trying to figure out why it had stopped, a text message came in from that same guy. He had sent something that seemed like a breakup message. I was so upset I woke her up and told her to leave in the morning because it was over.
A month later, I started begging her to come back, but she blocked me.
I fell sick weeks later with tuberculosis. While everyone attributed my mood to the illness, they didn’t know heartbreak was part of it.
Four months after the breakup, I moved back to Abuja. She contacted me early in 2021 to see how I was doing, and we started talking again. Then, we met when I visited Kaduna some weeks later. She explained that last text from the guy was saying she had been distant and he would no longer try to reach out to her because she had stayed away from him as promised. Thinking about it, I had been overwhelmed by emotions, so I didn’t read the text properly.
When is the wedding, please?
Don’t worry. I’ll let you know.
What’s your financial future as a couple?
I want to have at least one major personal project in three years — it’d be good to shoot a documentary that’ll find a home on any of the major streaming platforms. I also want to own a duplex, one of the downstairs rooms would be my studio. My girlfriend wants to own a mini-restaurant — something cosy that provides a homely experience.
Do you have a financial safety net?
No. I need to save myself before I save money. I usually spend my savings on business. For instance, over ₦500k will go into the documentary I’m making later this year.
If you’re interested in talking about how money moves in your relationship, this is a good place to start.