Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
*Nduka (29) and *Bolanle (28) started out wanting to be best friends and prayer partners. Now, they’ve been dating for 3 years. Today on Love Life, they discuss how they fell in love and the pros and cons of an inter-tribal relationship.
What’s your earliest memory of each other?
Bolanle: He walked past me at the airport and my first thought was, “Who is this fine boy?” I didn’t say anything to him because I didn’t want him to think I was tripping for him. Then, as God would have it, I was with my friend and he stopped us to ask for directions. Turned out we were at the airport for the same reason.
Nduka: We were both participants in a multinational training for West Africans. The training was in two phases: an online phase and a two-week offline phase. To make things easier, a Whatsapp group was created to share information. One day, I asked a question on the group and someone came to my DM to answer the question. That person was Bolanle, but I didn’t know her at the time, so I replied ‘Ok’ and moved on. Apparently, she got upset that I didn’t continue the conversation.
Bolanle: I wasn’t upset that you did not continue the conversation. I was upset because you didn’t say “thank you”. What kind of a person is that? I thought that was very rude.
Nduka: She said my profile picture looked like something a proud person would choose, so she decided not to talk to me if we met physically. But I talked to her at the airport and we became instant friends. It wasn’t until the next day when I called her on WhatsApp that she figured out that I was the same person. By then, of course, it was already too late.
LMAO this is giving holiday romance. What came next?
Bolanle: When I went for the training, I wasn’t sure what kind of people I was
going to meet. As soon as I discovered that Nduka and I shared similar values, I texted my best friend and told her I found a friend. And because I could call him a friend, I was intentional about keeping him in my space.
Nduka: We remained friends. Her personality made me look for chances to be with her or around her. We were in different groups for the training, so getting these chances meant a lot to me. She checked on me too, prayed for me and she’d tell me all the ladies that were liking me.
She told you all the ladies were liking you?
That’s actually a typical Nigerian woman toasting technique.
Bolanle: Please, please, please. Toasting who? I never even thought we would be more than friends. I just knew I could trust him.
Bolanle: He has a very beautiful heart. He’s always looking out for people and he’s very intentional about caring for them and making them feel involved. He’s also very empathetic. The bus taking us to the venue of the program got stuck in the mud, and while the other male participants were forming fresh guys, he rolled up his trousers, got into the mud, and helped them get the bus out. This took more than an hour. It was at this point I decided he was going to be my friend. He loves God too. Let me stop here. If I continue, you might fall in love with him.
God abeg oh. How did your friendship progress after the training ended?
Nduka: Black Panther came out just before the training, and in one of our conversations during training, I asked her to tell me what Marvel movies she had watched, but my good sis had no track record. I started yabbing her and she said, “Shebi you will take me to watch Black Panther”. We met up after the training and I took her to the movies for our first date.
Bolanle: I still don’t know how that came out of my mouth. Part of me wanted the friendship to end at the training.
Bolanle: Yes. We were getting too close and I didn’t want this.
Why? Were you in a relationship outside the training?
Bolanle: I didn’t want a relationship that year. I felt the friendship we had was strictly for spiritual purposes.
Nduka: Oshey, prayer warrior.
Nduka, when the movie date happened, how did you feel about Bolanle then? Did you see her as just a friend, or did you think there was the possibility of a romantic relationship?
Nduka: We were already holding hands then which was weird because we hadn’t known each other up to a month at that point. But I felt at peace with her, even though she wanted to be my female bestie. According to her, the reason we got to know each other was so she’ll be praying for me so that ladies won’t lead me astray.
And look at you two today. Clearly, the prayers worked.
Nduka: After the movie date, we talked on the phone everyday. We had great banter, talked about our days and everything else we fancied. We laughed a lot. Then she started running away…
She’s a runner, she’s a track star…
Bolanle: Please o, I had to. I realised I was liking him too much. My best friend and my former mentor pointed out that I liked him a lot when I was gisting them about the training. They said it felt good to hear me talk about a guy like that and that I should go and pray about it. When my best friend agreed that I needed to pray, I knew it was time to RUN.
Nduka, did you try to pursue her?
Nduka: I spoke to her about it. I was actually not shopping for a relationship at that point. I was just recovering from a one-sided situationship. I wanted us to be friends and keep it going.
Bolanle: This man didn’t allow me to run too far. One of the things that made us very close in a short while was that we were vulnerable with each other. At first, it felt like he didn’t even know what he wanted. We talked about how we felt about each other and I told him I was not ready for a relationship even when he became sure that he wanted a relationship.
I had broken off a relationship two years before that because of genotype issues and I felt I still needed time to heal. But I stopped running when I realised the feelings were growing. I prayed about it and I realised he was someone I wanted to spend my life with. I was deeply in love with him.
How many months into the friendship was this?
Nduka: About 4 months, possibly longer. When I became very certain that I wanted her in my life, I took the bold step and asked her out. And guess what? This lady took a whole month to reply.
Bolanle: Tell them how it happened oh.
Nduka: When I asked her to be my girlfriend, she asked why, and I told her I wanted to see if we were fit to get married and she said no. She said we could only date if we had decided to get married. Something shifted in the way I saw her that day. I stopped seeing her as a ‘possible mate’ and instead saw her as my ‘soulmate.’ She wasn’t just an option, she was the full option.
Alexa, play “Normally, you be full-option, normally, you be wife material.”
Nduka: Haha. This mindset has helped us a lot. When we fight, instead of looking for reasons to break up, we’re looking for reasons to make up. When we point out each other’s faults, it’s not with the intention to lay blame but to get the other person to adjust and grow in that area.
Bolanle: We both knew that we liked each other even though I had made it clear that I didn’t want a relationship. When he eventually asked me out, I laid out the reasons I thought it wouldn’t work. Number one was tribal differences. Number two, we hadn’t known each other for that long. And number three, I didn’t want to date for dating sake. He assured me that we could make it work. It was after this I prayed about it and got my confirmations. We started dating about a month later
Nduka: I was indifferent about the tribe differences, but she was scared that my family wouldn’t like her.
Bolanle: I’m Yoruba and he’s Igbo. I wasn’t sure his family would be comfortable with him bringing me home. I didn’t want to marry into a family where they had to endure having me around. I’ve always dreamed of having a mother-in-law who I partner with to play pranks on her son. He assured me that there wouldn’t be any problem with his family.
Nduka: And there isn’t. My family loves her and the same with her family too. We’ve been together for three years.
Bolanle: Three years, four months and seven days.
Wow. How has the journey been?
Bolanle: Better than I could have imagined, more blessed than I could have prayed for.
Nduka: I feel so at home. I am at my last bus-stop, there is no further journey from this place. This is home.
What do you love most about each other?
Nduka: I love that she intentionally built relationships with all my friends, and that these relationships are not dependent on me. I also love how thoughtful and generous she is. She almost always has a gift for me every time she visits.
Bolanle: I love that he loves God, his family, and me. I also love him and his kind beautiful heart.
Are there any peculiar things about an inter-tribal relationship in your experience?
Nduka: I’m tempted to mention language differences as a con, but it’s very minor. The Igbo ladies I dated in the past barely spoke Igbo so we communicated in English. Dating someone who doesn’t speak Igbo doesn’t make much of a difference to me.
Bolanle: Except we want to tease each other, we speak English. When we are with people who speak our native language, we interpret for each other. We trust that while we are with each other, no matter the language being spoken, we are safe.
Nduka: I had to learn to be conscious of ‘respectful cultural ways to greet’ especially when I visit her family. I almost always forget to bow or bend when greeting. Chiefly because they don’t matter in my culture. For example, in my culture, you can tell an elder they are lying or challenge them when they are wrong. But in hers, ‘respect’ has to supersede those sentiments.
Bolanle: He had to learn how to greet like a Yoruba boy. Lying flat to prostrate or bowing completely and touching the ground.
How about food?
Bolanle: He likes amala and ewedu, if that’s what you want to know.
Nduka: Bolanle doesn’t know how to cook Igbo soups and that’s fine because I love to cook myself. I actually think I’m the better cook.
Bolanle: I choose not to disagree because I love eating your food. If Nduka starts a restaurant, other restaurants might have to close shop.
Do you wonder if your tribe might affect certain future decisions? E.g. the type of wedding you’d both go for, the names for the children, etc.
Nduka: I’m a proud Igbo man, but that doesn’t mean I feel superior to other tribes. It means I’m aware of my identity and open to other people regardless of their culture. I already know some of my extended family might not be in support of my marrying from another tribe and that’s their business. We discuss all decisions we make that involve both of us. And we make choices based on the right thing to do, not necessarily the cultural or tribal thing to do.
Of course, our wedding will be a Yoruba wedding. And our kids may have both Igbo and Yoruba names.
Bolanle: Our relationship is first about us before it is about any other person. Yes, we love our families. Yes, we would always think about them when making decisions, but at the end of the day, we make our decisions based on what we want and deem fit for us. We have the blessings of the most important people in our lives and we believe that they trust us enough to make the best decision for ourselves.
It’s both of us against the world so we’ll always find a balance despite our differences. We are our own tribe.
Have you both had any fights?
Bolanle: I can’t even count them all.
What were these fights about?
Nduka: Most times they’re based on differences in our personality and almost always my fault.
Bolanle: Both of us have coconut heads.
Nduka: She never forgets a promise, so any promise forgotten is wahala. She’s actually quite understanding though. One thing that we agreed from the beginning is that we don’t do silent treatment. We talk to each other when we feel offended, listen and try to resolve the issue, sometimes we’ll argue and by the next day, we’ve settled.
Bolanle: Food has caused wahala too. I’m very picky with food. I can decide that I don’t like a particular food just by looking at it. This doesn’t always sit well with him especially if at that point it would be stressful to get what I want. The good thing is that I love any food made by him.
Nduka: Oh and another thing. Bolanle is very trusting and generous, often to her own detriment. One time, she literally bought items to sell and gave them out. That’s something we still fight about.
Bolanle: But to be honest, we’ve not had any fight that has made us talk about breaking up and we agreed from the start that no one is going on a break. Break-up is not an option. It’s till death do us part. We will give our best to each other without having it at the back of our minds that there is a breakup option.
Hmm. What aspects of each other would you love to see improvements in?
Nduka: I want Bolanle to worry less and believe in herself more.
Bolanle: I am improving. You’ve taught me to be better, and you still keep teaching me. From my own end, I can’t think of anything we are not working on already.
How would you rate the relationship on a scale of 1 to 10?
Nduka: It’s a 10 for me. I’m at peace with her and I know she’s got my back
Bolanle: God gave me more than I asked for so I might even add 1 to the 10. He is intentional about me and I’m at rest with him.
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