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.
Alexei* is a 26-year-old man with a partner who’s 15 years older and earns enough to spend Alexei’s salary in one night. In this interview, he shares the misconceptions about their relationship, the power dynamic and how he gets away with being poor through the power of gifting.
Occupation and location
Customer care representative living in Lagos.
I earn ₦90k monthly.
Monthly bills and recurring expenses
Lunch: ₦30 – 35k
Savings: ₦25 – 30k
I live with my partner, so light and feeding are covered. I spend money only when I’m outside the house or gifting my partner.
How often do you give your partner gifts?
Because of my financial state, I only get them gifts on birthdays, Valentine’s and Christmas. Except for books, which I buy for them randomly.
How did you meet your partner?
Through a friend who posted my picture to wish me a happy birthday. They saw the picture and asked for my number.
Just two days after we started talking, they came to the East, where I was visiting family, to see me.
They knew what they wanted and were too old to waste time playing games.
From the beginning, they set the power dynamic of money. They stayed in the East for a day before flying back to Lagos. One day later, they asked me out. I’d never been asked out so directly before, so I decided to give it a shot.
How has the relationship been?
We’ll be three years in a few months, so, really good. I’m grateful that I’ve found someone conscious enough not to throw the fact that they make more money than me in my face.
What do you mean?
We never speak about money because they can’t relate to my money struggles. They have a great career and earn about ₦1m monthly. They can travel whenever they want, afford ₦2m couches and spend my entire salary on dinner without batting an eyelid.
But do they give you money?
This is not a sugar baby deal. My friends think I get a monthly allowance, but I don’t. We’re dating, and to me, that means partnership. They get me whatever they think I want, but I don’t ask them for money.
For instance, four months after we started dating, my laptop crashed. I was at their place because I was staying over for a few weeks, so they went out and got me a new one for ₦200k. That was the first time I realised, “Oh, this guy has money.”
When I moved to Abuja in 2021, my plan was to live with a friend, which I did for a few days. Then one day, they sent me an address and said that it was my new apartment. I got there, and it was already furnished. It had everything from an air conditioner to a bed frame — the rent cost like ₦850k.
How did you navigate the long-distance relationship, though?
We saw each other once every month for a year, sometimes twice. I’d fly to Lagos on weekends or tell my employer I was sick so I could “work from home”.
Where were you working?
I was working at an investment firm where they paid me ₦70k. It was an internship that was supposed to run for six months, after which I’d be confirmed. But then, they asked for an extra six months, and at the end of that, they still fired me.
It happened around the middle of 2022. I started job hunting a few months later, and I got invited to an interview in Lagos. That’s when I decided to move back to Lagos full-time. But instead of shuttling between friends’ houses like I had done in the past, I decided to live with my partner.
What’s living with a tentative sugar daddy like?
Our dates are very sporadic. Sometimes, we go months without a single date; other times, we go six times a month. The minimum spend is ₦40k, which they cover.
Since I don’t pay for stuff, I put a lot of thought into the gifts I give them. For Valentine’s Day in 2021, I commissioned four paintings with special notes behind each of them, which cost about ₦40k in total. That year, I also got them a nice senator material that cost ₦50k and a blue watch — because they love wristwatches but don’t have one in that colour — for about ₦70k. Even though they literally have everything they want, getting gifts that show I’m thinking of them is how I get away with being poor.
I want to do nice things for them without having to wait for special occasions. There was this day we went shopping at Spar, and the bill was a little over ₦200k, but their card was declined. The whole time they tried to sort it out, I doubt they even considered me as an option. And sometimes, it’s things like this that get to me.
Something I’ve noticed is when we go to high-end stores, the staff is nonchalant to me until they walk in. Then, the staff rushes to attend to them. It’s emasculating. I realised this is what women go through every time. Am I the woman in our relationship now?
The worst happened two weeks ago. I’d sent their official driver to help me pick up a delivery, and when they came back to the house, the security guard knocked and said, “They’re looking for your daddy.”
In my head, I thought maybe I did look poor. The guy insisted that my “daddy” should come to receive the package until I identified the driver and said I was the one who asked for the things. In his defence, he was new.
I’m sha giving myself till the end of this year to get my life on track. There’s this project management certification of ₦400k I’m saving for. If not for some unfortunate incidents, I should’ve been able to afford it by now.
What’s taking all your money?
Last year, I lost about ₦800k to a bad investment deal, borrowed a relative ₦1m, and the moving cost from Abuja to Lagos was about ₦60k. I also tend to send friends random ₦5ks a lot. Someone could call and tell me in passing that they hadn’t eaten, and I’d send them money.
Please, where did all this money come from?
LOL, I used to do a lot of freelance creative and copywriting gigs from the time I was in school up until 2020. Sometimes, I’d get paid between $200 – $300 per work; other times, ₦40k here, ₦50k there. And I could comfortably survive on ₦15k for one month. I didn’t go out or eat out and only bought clothes once in a few years. I only spent money on essential things — food and data.
Must be nice
My partner and I are alike in that way. They don’t mind getting me anything as long as it can be considered a necessity. I had an interview last year, and they sent me ₦50k to get a suit so I could look the part. On my birthday weeks later, they surprised me with another suit as “backup”.
The most we’ve done for each other was last year’s Christmas. They gave me about ₦1.3m in gifts. I know this because I saw some receipts.
I got a Samsung flip phone, a case to go with it, sneakers, a co-ord top and shirts and Samsung pods pro. I must’ve been a good boy, LOL.
LOL. What did you get them?
I made an outfit for them from the fashion designer they used. I contacted them claiming to be the assistant, so they sent sample styles. That cost me about ₦57k. I also got them a wireless charger for about ₦25k and a kitchen mixer aide — they love having cute gadgets in the house. That one cost ₦60k. All these were from my savings, of course.
Not bad for a “poor boy”
Being with my partner has made me lax with money. It’s not like I suddenly spend on trivialities, but knowing you have someone doing the heavy financial lifting makes you relax a little.
Do you have a financial safety net?
I still have $500 in my domiciliary account and ₦600k in my Piggyvest. My random savings accounts have about ₦100k left.
I’d be more impressed with myself when I get a better-paying job because I’m turning 27 — this is my last year before I’ll be too old for entry-level jobs. I want to quit my job but need a way to pay for Valentine’s gifts. My taste has also changed. I now like to eat fresh olives, salmon, cheese… I need a good job to afford this lifestyle if they decide to break up one day.
Do I still need to ask about your ideal future?
Well, you already know mine is to get my savings up and contribute meaningfully to the relationship. And for them? They want to relocate in the next three to four years. They might go next year if the election doesn’t go how we want.
Don’t you want to relocate too?
I know they’ll want me to come with them, but I’m not scholarship material. I suck at assessments, and I can’t even afford the application fees for the plenty schools I’d have to apply to right now. What would I do abroad if I can’t get a decent job in Nigeria, even with my 2:1 degree? What happens after six or ten months when he’s tired of catering to my needs?
I don’t know if I want to give someone so much power over me in another man’s country.
*Subject refers to his partner in gender-neutral pronouns, they/them.
If you’re interested in talking about how money moves in your relationship, this is a good place to start.
Read the other Love Currency stories here.