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

How did you two meet?

Shola: We met for the first time in December 2022. 

My company sent me out to attend a business conference on the island. I was the sole representative at the event, and it was so boring — just panel after panel of different government officials talking about everything that’s wrong with Nigeria and how they’re trying their best to improve it. I think everyone there knew it was all bullshit.

Favour: Ah. Don’t say that in public, please. 

I was there with two of my colleagues, but it was still boring. It was supposed to last the whole day, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but there were break-out sessions every four hours. We met during the first of those sessions.

Shola: Immediately I saw her, I knew I had to talk to her because she was the best-dressed person there. She looked like a hot shot, and I was wondering why she went all out for a conference in this Lagos. Then I saw her colleagues and knew these ones were working for a big company. Not that my company isn’t big o, but we’re riding the whole start-up energy, so we’re a lot more laidback in our dressing.

Favour: I’d sneaked off to the brunch buffet table when he walked up to me. I was self-conscious because I was starving and had planned to get as much finger food as I could before other people caught on that the table was open. I’d just filled my little plastic saucer up when he greeted me, and I was like, “Shit. It had to be one soft-looking boy with a fine face that’d catch me hoarding food?”

Tell me you had a lovely conversation about it

Shola: We did. The first thing I said was, “Did you pack for me too?” which I instantly regretted. I wasn’t trying to shame her or anything. It was just the first sentence that came to me. She just rolled her eyes and walked away, but I followed her.

Favour: He followed me to my seat and sat with me. We ended up having the most basic but nicest conversation for the rest of the conference. We talked about everything we liked, followed each other on socials and even connected on LinkedIn.

Shola: And laughed at each other’s serious profile pictures.

Favour: But what we didn’t do is exchange numbers.

Shola: Yeah, that was funny. We’d decided to date before we even realised we didn’t have each other’s numbers.

Who needs numbers these days? But what informed the decision to date?

Shola: After that event, I stalked her on socials and really liked what I saw. She’s cool, fun and serious at the same time. I’ve always liked people who can balance all that; they’re rare. I also had a soft spot for her chubby cheeks and dimples pretty early on. 

So one of the times we were texting on Twitter, about two days after we met, I told her I wanted to take her on our first date.

Favour: He was so direct, I had to laugh. But I found it cute. 

We talked for a long time about the type of ambience we liked: morning, afternoon or night, food/fine dining or junk/grills, open-air or indoor, and so on. He was determined to make it perfect, and I followed his lead.

Shola: I like doing things right. My weakness is I can never be half-hearted about anything. Maybe until I chop breakfast sha, because I’ve never had anyone break up with me. And I came close to premium breakfast on our first date together.

Really? But you hadn’t even started dating yet?

Shola: Well, we fixed the date for the second Saturday after the conference, which was on a Friday. We went to this place in Ikeja GRA that makes the best burgers in Lagos. And that’s where she told me she’s in not one but two relationships. I almost fainted.

Favour: He makes it sound so harsh. What I told him was that I was seeing two people, but I didn’t have a primary partner. I was in an open relationship. 

Shola: I couldn’t understand what she meant in practice, so I just assumed it was a sex thing. But it wasn’t. She explained that she was committed to two men, had an emotional connection with each of them, had sex with them, and most importantly, they knew about each other.

Favour: I was still interested in dating him, so I emphasised that. I just needed him to know there are two other people involved because the last thing I want to do is cheat on anyone.

And how easy was it to move from this full disclosure to an official relationship?

Shola: It wasn’t easy at all. 

I almost didn’t want to be on the date anymore, but we’d already placed our orders, and I didn’t have the energy to get up and leave. My mind was in full processing mode, so we just sat there, quiet, as we waited for the burgers and beer. 

I’m glad we waited.

Favour: I was so sure he was going to bolt and maybe even block me because that’s how the average Nigerian person reacts. I’d never considered dating anyone I knew was heteronormative so much that I’d reveal this side of my personal life to them. Everyone I’ve ever been in a relationship with was already openly polyamorous. I don’t know why I took a chance with him, but I’m glad I did.

Shola: Once the food came and we started eating, I started asking questions: Does everyone in the larger relationship live together and have to be committed to each other? Did her two partners have other partners of their own? I was sort of concerned about things like STIs. Also, what about jealousy?

Favour: All these questions were valid, so I answered as best as I could while reminding him not to let fear of the unknown push him to make up scenarios in his head. 

I’ve always been polyamorous, since my first relationship in college, when I was 20. So I’ve never had to ask these questions. These are things I learnt to navigate over time, and there are no rules. What works for someone else’s open relationship might not work for ours. For example, the fear of STIs, don’t you still make sure you’re not vulnerable to that in your average monogamous relationship?

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Sounds like it was a really educative conversation. What was the end result?

Shola: I decided to give it a try. I was now excited because there was something about the way she spoke about it.

Favour: The first thing that helped was explaining how an open relationship was different from polyamory. I introduced him to my other boyfriends, but we didn’t have to all be in one big committed relationship.

Shola: I met them the next day. She invited three of us out with her to see Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

They were both laidback and mature about it. I’m glad I have those men in my life because one of them is currently mentoring me to start a business I’ve been wanting to start for the last five years.

Favour: They all got along on that first meet, and that’s always a good sign.

Has jealousy reared its ugly head yet?

Shola: Yes, all the time. But not negatively. It almost makes the relationship more exciting. Almost because there’s “competition”, we’re both vocal about whether or not we’re making each other happy, and there’s not as much pressure on one person to meet the other’s needs. 

I never imagined I’d be open to an open relationship, but I now understand why it works. I’ve never been in a relationship with as much open and honest communication as this one. 

Favour: The personal boundaries are also clear. It’s hard to feel like someone is taking over your life or space in this type of relationship. 

He has another girlfriend now, by the way. They started dating last month, and we’ve all met each other. It feels a lot more balanced now.

Was it easy to get her into the open relationship lifestyle?

Shola: Yes, but maybe because I didn’t set out to date her at first. It just happened, and she knew I was in an open relationship before we even got to the point of dating. So she had time to process it herself and decide whether she wanted to be involved in it.

Favour: She’s such a sweet girl. I love her so much, and I actually knew she was moving to Shola before the slow boy caught on. I had a conversation with him about it before he officially asked her.

Have you guys fought about anything yet?

Favour: We fight all the time over the smallest of things. 

The most memorable was sometime in April when he laughed at me at the gym for messing up a routine. I was already in a bad mood from work, and he knew it. So him laughing at me, and in public, felt so insensitive. I just got up, took my gym bag and went to his house with his car (he drove us there). 

When he got back home, he was upset that I left him stranded.

Shola: I wasn’t upset upset until you started screaming at me for daring to be upset. I was just exhausted because I had to walk home.

Favour: We had a shouting match that ended in silent treatment. But by the time we were going to bed, we had this whispered conversation about it and hashed the whole thing out.

Shola: Our fights are mostly misunderstandings that blow out of proportion. Nothing too serious.

I’m curious. How do you decide when to hang out, considering the other partners? Is there a timetable?

Shola: LOL. No timetable o.

Favour: We just move as the spirit leads. It’s an “open” relationship. Sometimes, you feel like spending time with this person, so you go there.

Shola: This is where the open communication comes in. We always check in on each other to make sure boundaries aren’t blurred and no one feels neglected. There’s no WhatsApp group or anything, but we all trust each other.

Do other people — your family, friends, co-workers — know you’re in an open relationship?

Favour: For me, everyone knows. 

I’ve never told my parents directly, and they live in a different city, but I’m sure the news has reached them by now. All my siblings and some of my extended family know, so of course, one of them will tell. They haven’t asked or berated me about it, but they stopped pressuring me to marry some five years ago. In general, I’m open about it to those who have a right to know about my personal life.

Shola: I’m still new to it, so right now, only my brother knows. He’s older, just about Favour’s age, and he doesn’t believe in it at all. He thinks we’re all just fooling around. I’ve decided there’s no point opening up to my parents. I might change my mind in the future because I don’t see our relationship ending soon. But why open myself up to disappointment when I know they won’t be supportive?

Favour: Some people around me have been supportive, some haven’t. In my early 20s, I’d get slut-shamed all the time, mostly by older men who can’t grasp the idea of a woman being sexually liberated. I won’t lie that it never got to me, but I still get slut-shamed before people know I’m polyamorous, so what difference does it make? 

Sweet. How would you rate your Love Life on a scale of 1-10?

Favour: A full-chested 10. I love it here.

Shola: 10 too. Sometimes, I feel guilty that I’m living in sin, but 10 still.

Favour: DFKM.

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