Love Life: “He Needed Affection I Couldn’t Give”

August 19, 2021

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

Audio: He Needed Affection I Couldn’t Give

*Arinze (25) and *Ebi (25) love each other but broke up after dating exclusively for a month. In today’s episode of Love Life, they admit to their parts in the breakup and talk about navigating their new relationship as “friends with benefits who are in an undefined open relationship and often say ‘I love you’.”

What’s your earliest memory of each other?

Arinze: We met on Grindr. I messaged him first, we exchanged Instagram handles and we kept texting for weeks. And then he blocked me because he thought I wasn’t into him.

Ebi: In my defence, he was giving lacklustre energy. He would only reply me but not make conversation. Then he cancelled our plans to meet like two or three times in the name of being “busy”. I think I’m an intense person, but after waiting for a change and it didn’t happen, I decided to stop the foolishness. My solution to life is “block and move on”, so I blocked him everywhere and moved on. Normally, I would have had a conversation about his lack of energy before I blocked him, but it just felt like too much for someone I just met, so I opted not to.  

Arinze, were you giving lacklustre energy?

Arinze: In retrospect, I think so. If he had asked me, I would have given him my reasons. One, I’m very guarded with personal information when talking to new people; two, his Instagram page was empty so I had only a vague idea of what he looked like from the two photos he sent me. But I was enjoying some of the topics we were discussing, and finding out that he’d blocked me was a bit confusing. My Instagram messages were not being “seen” anymore, and I couldn’t find his account. I tried calling him to figure out why I was blocked, but apparently, he’d blocked me there too. That was when I concluded none of it was my problem and moved on.

Ebi: To be fair, I know him now and can say his behaviour then is just how it is. His schedule is pretty tight too.

So who unblocked who first?

Arinze: Funny enough, he didn’t block me on Grindr. A few weeks later, I saw him online and messaged him to ask if he forgot to block me there. That’s when he explained why he blocked me. 

Ebi: Yeah, I blocked him everywhere but Grindr because I wanted to keep that door open. 

Arinze: I found his explanation unsatisfactory, but I was willing to meet him because I thought he was fine and wanted to know if the dick hit. 

We also seemed to have similar tastes in music, tv shows, books, pop culture, etc, and I was curious to find out if that would translate in real life. He asked if I wanted to come over, I said yes.

Ebi: After I blocked him, I got into an entanglement with some dude in an open relationship, so I didn’t need to go on Grindr. When it ended, I got back to the streets and installed Grindr again. When he texted me, I was partially happy to reconnect. We talked, he teased me for blocking him and being childish, I asked him if he would love to come over, we had sex. He was hotter and more handsome in person, I must add. And he’s a very smart spec of a guy. 

LMAO. Romanzzzz. So what happened next?

Arinze: We were both interested in moving forward with being “exclusive”. We arranged a date to watch A Quiet Place 2 at the cinema, but this he-goat came late and we missed the film, so we had to go all the way to IMAX in Lekki. We ordered a lot of food, and made out a lot in the dark cinema room. That was our first date. 

Ebi: Oh, we got very terrible chicken wings on that date. The next day, I sent him wings with a note that said “Palate cleanse to fix the disaster we had the day before”. On our second date, I asked him out and he said yes. It was my first relationship, and he said it was his too.

Arinze: We went on more dates, invaded each other’s privacy like animals, it was very consuming. We met on a Thursday, had our first date the following Monday and then the second date on Friday. The time we met on Grindr to when we started dating was about a month and a few weeks.

How did it feel to be in a relationship for the first time?

Arinze: It was good. Commitment felt good. It was my first exclusive relationship with someone I liked. It felt different in the beginning because I’m not used to checking in on people or talking to them constantly — morning, afternoon, evening — but I got used to it because I really liked him.

Ebi: For me, it was great! Arinze is really smart, funny, and very vast in trash (my kind of trash), so our conversations were amazing. Even though it was my first relationship, I didn’t need “practice” because I have so many friends I’m very affectionate towards, and he was someone new I was sleeping with and could be deeply affectionate with. Oh, and he sent me songs very often and I put all of them in a playlist and I typically play that playlist every day.

So, the relationship was all love and light?

Arinze: Yes, it was. We had inside jokes and got excited about the same things, which was great until we broke up a month later. 

I’ll leave Ebi to give you the full details.

Ebi: LMAO. Okay, okay. Arinze is a great person, but throughout the relationship, I was concerned about the level of thoughtfulness I got from him. I’m a giving and very affectionate person, and while the goal of being that way is not to always receive, it’s not wild to expect my partner to match the energy. But I did not get the impression that Arinze was trying to match that energy. 

I tried to rationalise it: does he not like me in the way that I like him; does he not have the capacity to be affectionate towards me; was he apprehensive of showing too much affection because it was too early in the relationship? It was a very confusing state, but I didn’t have a conversation with him because I wanted to give him space and give it time so I wouldn’t appear too pushy early in the relationship. 

Did this work?

Arinze: We ended up breaking up on our one month anniversary.

Ebi: And even then, he did something too. He knew this was our first relationship and our one month anniversary was up in a week. It was on a Sunday. I know he likes staying in on Sundays, so a week before, I texted him: Our one month anniversary is up, I know you’re kinda busy and need to be booked 5 years in advance. Want to do something on that day? He said yes. We didn’t make concrete plans; but it was a marked date.

Even till the night before, he still did not agree to make any concrete plans. And then on the day of the anniversary, he “fell sick.” Him being ill wasn’t the problem, it’s that we made no plans or had anything for this important one month milestone for each of us. Even if the relationship wasn’t important, it’s our first relationship, and it lasted one month, so I expected fireworks for reaching that milestone. 

On that day, there was still some lacklustre energy and I was already just overthinking the whole relationship, so I called him and had the first conversation about why I thought he wasn’t affectionate or intentional. I told him I had thought a lot about it and that I came to the conclusion that he just wasn’t wired to show me the kind of wholesome affection that I wanted. I told him it was hard for me, and trying to change him would take too long, so it was best for us to break up. 

Oh wow. So sorry this happened.

Arinze: The crux of the matter was that Ebi didn’t think I was as thoughtful as he was because he felt like he was spending more money on me than I was on him. He might not want to admit this, but I think this was why he felt conflicted about the relationship. In my defense, we lived very far apart from each other — mainland to island — and it was too expensive for me to keep coming regularly. He never even offered to come over to my house to visit. Of course, sex at my parents’ was a no-no, but we definitely could have had fun if he came over.

Ebi: Thoughtfulness is not only about money. It’s showing you care for someone and they’re your priority, and you were not giving me that in the relationship. I wouldn’t deny that the money spending wasn’t a factor; I’m just saying it was less about that and more about the rest.

Also, I didn’t know coming over to your place was an option at all. My bad, I’m sorry.

Arinze: Fundamentally, I’m not a needy person. I’m always good on my own. And so, when we got together, my mindset was, “If this relationship doesn’t work, I’m going to be okay. I have been okay before this guy and I’ll be okay after him”. I didn’t know how to be “affectionate” in a new relationship because nobody ever needed me in that way before. And so, when he said to break up, I didn’t take it too hard. I understood he needed the kind of relationship I wasn’t able to give him at the moment.

Ebi: I think we approached the relationship very differently. I’ve also always been alone since forever; I mean, this is my first relationship and I’m twenty-five, so even though I’ve always been isolated, I knew if I got in a relationship, I would give my whole self and not bits of myself. 

Arinze: Fair point, but I still feel like my not spending as much money on you was a big part of why you felt neglected in a way.

Ebi: Again, no. We are in different tax brackets. It would be ridiculous to have expected that. I guess I just wanted a better semblance of your affection and I wasn’t really seeing it.

Now that we have broken up, I have freed myself from expecting anything from him. Expectations can make you miserable, and I’d rather be single than be in a relationship where I am not fully satisfied. I simply take him as he is, outside the confines of a relationship, and now, we are just friends that sleep together. 

So friends with benefit (FWB)?

Arinze: Unfortunately, yes. 

Ebi: LMAO, you’re unhinged.

How did you get to that?

Arinze: After the break-up, we talked about staying friends. But the sex had been good, and we were both unwilling to discard that. It was weird at first but we’ve definitely settled into it well. 

Ebi: Until this guy sent me a drunk voice note saying, “I love you.”

Hay God. What is this plot twist?

Ebi: I was busy minding my FWB business one day, when I got a voice note, which is uncharacteristic of him because he doesn’t send voice notes. I play it, and it starts with a big sigh like he knew he was mad at himself for what he was about to admit, and then he goes, “I love you” in the softest tone I’ve ever heard. Before I could process it, he added, “Or maybe I don’t, or maybe I do, I don’t know.” Best believe I backed that VN up on all my cloud providers.

Arinze: Now, why would you even save that VN? Are you down bad? See, I got drunk on a work afternoon because I had some vodka, and I sent him that VN with a couple of other messages about the world coming to an end and God being real.

Ebi: And here’s the most interesting thing. It was the first time he was saying that to me.

You both never said “I love you” during the relationship? 

Ebi: I knew I loved him even before we broke up, but I never said and then there was the breakup. I didn’t think it would ever be said. When he sent me the VN, I didn’t say it back because he was drunk, and I needed to hear him say it to my face. But I made a playlist of songs that said “I love you” and sent it to him that evening. We met the next day, and I told him to his face after we discussed the circumstances surrounding it. The conversation felt freeing, because finally, I could interrupt him mid-sex to say I love you.

Arinze: Okay, this is melting my icy heart. I mean, I do also love you, just so you know. And I will always love you no matter what because our foundation was unconventional but also pretty solid. I feel like I have known you literally my whole life. 

So what would you call what you have?

Ebi: I don’t know… Friends with benefit with a sprinkle of I love you and a side of undefined open relationship?

Arinze: Are you sure you’re sober?

LOL. So how are you navigating sleeping with other people, now that you’ve both said “I love yous”?

Ebi: Oddly, there’s nothing different, at least for me. My I love you was me letting him know I love him; I’m not sure it has changed anything in general.

Arinze: Same here.

Do you ever think you’ll get back together?

Ebi: We started the relationship knowing we were both moving to different countries, so that has always been an underlying “plan”. I think a relationship might be hard to fathom for now because of the constraint of distance, but I definitely love the affectionate man he’s becoming. If we’re in the same city, I’d definitely love to explore that.

Arinze: I really don’t know. I’m not an intuitive person or a person who likes to think about the future, but I definitely enjoy what we have now. God is unpredictable and men are trash, so I hope whatever is in the future is good.

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