Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.

Tell me how you met

Adeile: Yemisi and I first crossed paths about ten years ago in a big supermarket in Ibadan. I think it was an afternoon in the middle of the week, so the usually busy store had very few people in it. 

There was this mischievous child with his father. He was dancing and jumping around. He’d obviously been watching too many cartoons, and although I was angry at first because I was overworked, tired and envious that this little boy had time for entertainment, he made a sudden move and sound that made me burst out in laughter. I couldn’t help myself. 

Then I heard someone laugh too and turned. The laughter was pretty, but the face was even prettier. I forgot about the child.

Yemisi: Yes, that co-laughter was like the beginning of something special. We went quiet for a few minutes, and I went back to looking for the one thing I had come to the mall to buy. Then I heard him say, “Hello. What’s your name?” I turned and answered him. He told me his name, and we started this light on-and-off conversation until I realised he was following me around the aisles. 

For some reason, I wasn’t uncomfortable with it. He seemed nice and responsible. We exchanged numbers, and when we got to the counter, he paid for my item — a Sure deodorant spray.

How did things progress?

Adeile: I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and as soon as I got home from all my errands that day, I called her, and we spoke for some time. I mostly asked her questions, and she told me all about her life: how she was juggling multiple part-time jobs to put herself through college of education. I admired her diligence because it reminded me of my own journey. While I was still struggling, I’d come far by working multiple jobs just like her.

Yemisi: He started offering me advice, and I appreciated it very much. When classes resumed, and I had to go back to campus in Ilesa, he sent me ₦10k, which was a big deal back then. 

While in school, he’d often call to check on me and advise me on how to solve hard problems. Like the time I had an issue with a lecturer. He told me how to talk to the woman to get her to calm down, and it worked. At that time, he was like the father or older brother I wish I had.

When did it become more romantic?

Yemisi: Adeile’s kindness and unwavering support made the love creep into my heart. As a young girl trying to navigate life, having someone like him, educated and professional, as a mentor was special. I always had someone to turn to for help, and who was willing to listen to me complain for one hour. 

Before that, I’d gotten used to bottling everything up because no one wants to listen to someone else’s problems. But he encouraged me to unburden myself. It helped that he was more mature, so he seemed to always have the right thing to say.

Adeile: And for me, it was Yemisi’s resilience. Despite the challenges she faced, she always had this positive spirit that drew me in, even when she was complaining. I knew she was one of those people you cross paths with and make sure they never leave. 

She graduated from the college in the early months of 2014. When I went to celebrate with her, I told her I wanted to marry her if she would wait for me for a year to set things in order. She just laughed, and from that day on, we knew we were boyfriend and girlfriend.

Yemisi: Apart from my older sister, none of my family members came to my graduation. I don’t blame them. Everyone in my household was struggling to make ends meet. Most couldn’t even cover the transport from Ibadan or Iseyin to Ilesa. It was just Adeile, my sister and two of my close friends, so it made his presence extra special to me. He even told my sister he was going to marry me.

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What was the relationship like after graduation?

Adeile: Finances were tight, but love has a way of making you creative. I had to plan outings that were affordable yet meaningful.

Yemisi: It wasn’t easy, but we focused on supporting each other. Adeile was there for me every step of the way as I started my teaching career. He helped me get my first job in a secondary school where his friend was the vice principal. I remember how proud I was that I was the only one in my friend group with a formal job for at least two years after graduation. 

Then he gave me the best advice that’s still helping our family today. He said I should focus on getting into a federal school.

Adeile: Apart from the slightly better pay, I wanted the job stability for her. I knew getting in young and at entry level would be the easiest path. Such an opportunity wasn’t easy to come by thought, and I focused on talking to everyone I knew who had access. We also put our heads and money together so she could take some small courses and exams.

Yemisi: He had his accounting career to think of, so I felt blessed that he was putting his energy into my career as well. 

Adeile: My work was going as strong as it could, but there was hardly any stability, so I wanted her to get it right very early. I was also working toward the same thing for my youngest brother.

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Sounds like your families were actively involved in your lives, did that affect your relationship at any point?

Yemisi: We took the time to get to know each other’s families and friends from the moment our relationship got serious. 

Adeile: Being from a conservative Christian background, there were many expectations of us as soon as my family knew we were dating. We had to handle these expectations delicately. It was important for our families to see the authenticity of our love, especially because of the 13-year age difference.

Yemisi: We attended family functions together and made an effort to be a part of each other’s lives. He was in my house a lot, helping my father out with things around the house. He once helped us paint all the interior walls.

Adeile: I loved to help her mum with her ata rodo garden too. That was before their neighbours “mistakenly” poured kerosene everywhere. 

I preferred to spend time in her home rather than have her come to mine because it was important to me for her parents to see me as serious and responsible. That was just how I was brought up. And she was still so young then. She was a baby. 

Our families eventually saw the love we shared, and that spoke louder than any preconceived notions.

When did you finally get married? Did you keep to your one-year promise?

Adeile: It was more like a year and a half, but I did my best. For several months after I made the promise, my financial struggles only got worse, and Yemisi’s schedule at the school became so demanding that it really tested our relationship. 

Yemisi: I had to quit a year after I got the job because it got so stressful that I was always sick. They kept increasing the workload even beyond my qualifications because they couldn’t afford to pay teachers with more experience. Plus the emotional stress of listening to the students’ many personal issues took a toll on me. 

Adeile: There were days when I felt inadequate, unable to provide the comfort I wished for her. She didn’t get into the federal ministry until 2016, over a year after we got married. We’d given up at that point, but a path suddenly opened up.

Yemisi: One day, I was tired of waiting for everything to be perfect. I told Adeile we should stop waiting. It was in the middle of 2015. I’d just started a new job as a class teacher and administrator at a small primary school. Things weren’t better in terms of our circumstances, but I was happy. 

I came back from church, and all that was on my mind was the pastor’s message about how God qualifies the unqualified. I can’t explain how I connected it to our relationship, but God told me Adeile was overthinking the whole thing and needed me to tell him everything would be okay. I’d just reached my gate when I pulled out my Nokia and called him to deliver God’s message.

Adeile: I cried that night because the peace of God just settled in my heart when I heard her voice speak those words.

How did the wedding go?

Adeile: It ended up being much bigger than I’d planned without me needing to spend too much outside my pocket. 

Yemisi: We used an open field for the reception, and it was packed.

Adeile: I was scared because I knew the quantity of food I’d paid for, and there was no way it would feed the number of people I saw that day. But Yemisi just squeezed my arm and told me, “Relax. Everything will take care of itself. We’ve done our best”.

Yemisi: Na marry we marry. That doesn’t mean we have to feed the whole of Ibadan.

Adeile: People came through, brought their coolers of food and drinks — even people who’d never moved a finger to help us. At least, they supported us in their own little way at our wedding ceremony, and that one too isn’t bad.

They tried

Adeile: It is well.

After the wedding, we moved into a bigger, better mini-flat than the one I was living in. And in a friendlier side of town. I was happy I could at least do that much for us.

Yemisi: Today, we’re happy, we’re doing our best, and we have two beautiful kids to show for it.

Adeile: When Nigeria tries to put us down with no money, too much work, frustrated plans, stagnancy, Yemisi always reminds me how we met, how laughter brought us together, and it never ceases to make us laugh again. She always knows how to put a smile on my face.

Yemisi: Even our kids have inherited our laughing spirit. They’re both very cheerful, outgoing children, and that makes our home a happy one, even when times are hard. Sometimes, when there’s no electricity for days, we can’t put on TV, all our phones are long dead, we entertain ourselves with gist and jokes.

Have you had any major fights?

Adeile: Of course, we’re not perfect. 

A few months into our relationship, sometime in 2014, I was still figuring out finances, looking for better opportunities everywhere, and there was a business that required me to move to a different city for some time.

Yemisi: Yes, and I was teaching here in Ibadan. I didn’t want him gone. I felt very attached to him already.

Adeile: But I saw it as an important career opportunity that could improve our financial situation. I thought it was a risk worth taking for the future.

Yemisi: I was more rooted in the present, thinking about the life we were building. And it was in Lagos, so all I could think of was he’d go there and forget about me in weeks. I know this was selfish, but I couldn’t help it.

We talked about it on a stroll one evening, but before long it’d turned into an argument.

Adeile: I decided not to bring it up with her again after that day, and the opportunity ended up not materialising. But I had to let her know sometimes one had to make smart decisions without letting emotions get in the way.

That’s true

Adeile: Even while married, we’ve had another major issue concerning work. 

A few years after our wedding and just after Yemisi got the federal job, we had our first child. Can you believe she wanted to quit?

Yemisi: We were both facing increased responsibilities at work, and I was struggling to cope with taking care of the baby after my maternity leave elapsed. I had my mother with me, but it was still a lot. I suddenly felt torn between pursuing a career and being the kind of wife and mother I wanted to be.

Adeile: We tried to talk about it, but it turned into a heated argument about priorities and her feeling neglected. We were both overwhelmed, trying to find a way to make everything work.

Yemisi: No. He’d already decided I couldn’t leave the job and was trying to get me to accept it. The only problem was I understood his logic, but I was suffering physically and emotionally and couldn’t cope. A marriage counsellor from church had to come in. 

In the end, I thought about it from a long-term perspective and realised I’d regret letting go of such a position that was hard to come by in a country like ours. So I found a way around it, got some of my close colleagues to cover for me in some aspects of work, and we survived. 

I’m happy he didn’t run away from having tough discussions with me to keep me from hurting my future.

Adeile: It was good we took up counselling because it helped us have a lot of honest conversations. We had to reassess our priorities and what success looked like for both of us.

That sounds so healthy. How would you rate your Love Life on a scale of 1 to 10?

Adeile: That’s an interesting question. Well, I’ll say 8. 

We’ve been through a lot together, but we still find laughter in each other’s company. Our love is strong die.

Yemisi: Yes. I’ll say 8 too. It’s been a learning curve, and the fact that we continue to grow together is what makes our love strong. There’s always room for improvement, but we’re happy with where we are too.

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