Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
Lanre, 30+, and Princess, 30+, have been married for six years. Months after their first child, Lanre encountered a mental health issue that lasted a year and tested their marriage. For today’s episode of Love Life, they discuss working through it as a couple and what six years of marriage has taught them.
What’s your earliest memory of each other?
Lanre: Princess and I met through a mutual friend in church.
Princess: We were in church, but this man couldn’t just calm down. He quickly asked for my BBM pin, and the next morning, he said we should play a game that sounded like truth or dare.
Lanre: I accept with my full chest. The first time I saw her, I really liked her persona. I wanted to know her better, but I was socially awkward and didn’t really know how to talk to people. I made up the game to get to know her. I called it the gbagaun game. Basically, you try to use really bad grammar, and the other person must be able to detect the errors. You get points for the worst grammar.
She wasn’t so enthusiastic about it, but I think she wanted to be nice, so she replied.
Princess: I thought he was weird though, so I friendzoned him.
Oh no! Not the friendzone.
Princess: The very first time I saw him, I thought he was worshipping intently, completely unconcerned about his environment or if people were looking at him. That was nice, but it made me mentally categorise him as a church bro.
And here’s my personal definition of a church bro: they are church brothers who behave like assistant Jesus. They are too serious, and all of the bible verses that they quote are never the ones that portray Jesus as a fun dude.
I wasn’t ready for that. My ideal guy was someone who is a baby boy but who also loves Jesus. A fine balance.
Lanre: And when I saw her for the first time, I thought she was a complete babe. Beauty? On point. Faith? On point too. These were the things that mattered to me then — someone who shared the same values, faith and beliefs I did.
Princess: LMAO. The spirikoko covered all the sweet boy potential you had, please. It took a while before I could see through it.
Princess: Anyway, I grew up with five big brothers, so it wasn’t hard to add one more brother into the mix. I called him brother, he called me sister too.
Lanre: To be honest, I was not going to rush it. I was not in a hurry. From being disappointed with relationships in the past, I’d formed the opinion that no true relationship could survive without genuine friendship. And so when I found out I had been friendzoned, I was willing to wait. If nothing happened, I was comforted that we’d still have our friendship.
I ended up calling her Sister Princess, and she too referred to me as Brother Lanre.
Princess: I even tried hooking him up with a friend of mine — that I didn’t want to date him did not mean I couldn’t match him with other people. But that ship sank before it could sail. It led nowhere.
Welp. Was that why you removed him from the friendzone?
Princess: Being close friends with Lanre made me see him for who he really is. He wasn’t trying to impress me or anything because it was clear that I was not into him. He was just being Lanre around me, no performance or added effects. And this was what did it for me. I began to pay attention, and it was as though someone turned on a light bulb and illuminated a dark room. He was no longer the Brother Lanre, aka Assistant Jesus, that I knew. I saw, instead, that there were more things to him that I hadn’t noticed before.
Lanre: Aww, I’m shy.
Princess: Go away jor. That’s how you deceived me into thinking you were the shy one until we got married, and I realised that you are not an introvert! Ha, men!
LMAO. How long did it take for you to see him?
Princess: It took two years for me to see him. He was just being himself and I was being myself. In fact, he sometimes knew when guys were asking me out. I showed him I wasn’t so easy to impress. I will stress you out because I believe you can’t offer me anything that I don’t already have.
I come from a family that totally adores me and does not hesitate to shower me with financial love. What I was looking for in a romantic relationship was something extra, and our friendship gave me the opportunity to see that Lanre had that thing. Substance, integrity, dependability — these were important to me, and I wasn’t going to settle down with anyone who was all muscles and no brain.
The more I paid attention to Lanre, the clearer things became. I could see he treasured our conversations and what they were centred around. This guy is an idea powerhouse: he always has an answer when you come to him with a concern. I actually call him a living encyclopedia: very unassuming and yet a spec. My spec! During one of our conversations, it clicked that this man had the extra spice I was looking for. And so I gave him the green light.
Tell me a little about this “green light”.
Princess: I told him that it’s ok if he wants to ask me out now because I had started liking him. And so, after being friendzoned for two years plus, we began dating. Three months into the relationship, something else happened. He came to my house one day and said we should call it quits. I asked him why; he said family issues.
Lanre: LMAO. Those were the dark days, please. I went to visit her so I could tell her that our newfound love could not work out. My family didn’t think we should be together. Ethnicity issues, but also because she didn’t fit the image of the ideal “good girl”.
Princess: So the thing is, I am Igbo and he is Yoruba. Plus, I guess they were looking for someone who looks like an “omo Jesu”— one SU girl to fit him.
I don’t get…
Princess: Let me just be direct: I look like someone that will finish your money and not stay with you. I was blessed to have been surrounded by loving big brothers who sponsored my expensive lifestyle. I practically got whatever I wanted. And yes, even though I possess all the qualities of a “good girl” and have a close relationship with Jesus, it’s the “I’ll finish your money” look that everyone sees the most.
Lanre: LMAO. “Good girl” is making me laugh. Basically, she is very expressive with her fashion choices and creative with it. It was just cultural stereotypes.
Princess: I’m not even going to lie: the shock of the breakup was out of this world. No one had ever done me dirty like that. Anyway sha, we broke up, and he started dating his sister’s best friend. I wasn’t ready to jump into another relationship, so I chilled. We were still friends, but it was strained.
One evening, three months later, I received a text message from him. Something like, “You are the best woman for me, I have been thinking…”He was asking me to come back.
Princess: This time, I was in beast mode. I said NO, I wasn’t going to date him anymore. Omo, this man started begging me.
I still liked him, but as a friend, so I told him to chill for about four months. I told him I was praying about it and would give him an answer whenever God provided it.
Lanre: Yes, this woman made sure I paid the second time.
Princess: One day, I asked him what changed. He told me that he was ready to fight anybody for what his heart wanted. It sounded cute, but I wanted to know if he meant those words. To show he did, he started intentionally trying to make us work. We clicked again, and I said yes.
Funny thing? His mum and I eventually became best friends.
Aww. How has married life been so far?
Princess: Married life has been a learning curve. We were married one minute, and the next minute we were pregnant. Dubai hotels do magic for newlyweds. And then four months after our first baby, a year and three months into the marriage, my husband had mental health challenges.
Lanre: It was a new experience. I lost many important relationships and acted very strangely. I resigned from my jobs at the time, mostly out of anger and deep sadness. What followed were very difficult times.
Princess: This changed us a lot. We were lodging in and out of hospitals like they were hotels. I am grateful he came out of it after about a year. These days, we are busy inspiring and lifting up each other with loving words and raising adorable little humans.
Six years in, and I can say I made the right choice. We still behave like newly-weds around each other.
Lanre: Married life has not been a perfect or an entirely smooth ride. Being friends and being truly in love has really helped us stick together. Our faith in Jesus is also an important pillar in our relationship. It really helps us to stay grounded during very difficult times.
I look forward to the rest of our lives.
What did you pick up from the mental health ordeal?
Princess: The mental health challenges taught us to talk through issues and not take on too many things at a time. My husband wanted to save the world, so he took on too many projects. Now, we don’t joke with our mental health. If I feel like crying about anything, I know I have a shoulder; he won’t judge me and neither will I judge him. Funny thing, I still called him and cried on the phone to him just this evening.
So yes, it’s taught me to listen and prioritize our marriage. Now, when I see people going through mental health challenges, I don’t trivialize it or say words that will make them sink lower. My husband’s experience taught me that mental health challenges are REAL and you need loving people around you to be able to pull through.
Lanre: What I learnt really is that it’s worth prioritizing family relationships. I now understand why people say “family over everything”. It was a dark and lonely period, and could have been worse without family. And yes, listening is so crucial.
What do you love most about each other?
Lanre: I love that she’s an amalgam. A splendid mix of all the top notch qualities. She can attend a presidential dinner and dazzle them, she can enter Ojuelegba and still rapport efficiently with agberos. She does everything so passionately and she’s also got such a beautiful mind. We share the same faith in Jesus. And she’s damn hot.
Princess: I like the fact that I can trust him. Lanre’s integrity is top notch. He is very unassuming but he is a great lover! And this is the most important: he is a very present and intentional parent to our babies.
Lest I forget too, he’s my very own tech bro.
How do you resolve issues when they come up?
Lanre: When issues come up, I leave her alone for a while and then either apologize or just try to be in the same room with her or in her face so that we have no choice but to talk.
Princess: I think a difference in perception is what causes issues. But mostly, we fight to put our marriage first. If he is taking a decision that might jeopardize the peace of our nuclear family, I am always quick to call his attention to it and he does the same to me. Thankfully we have learned to always put us as a unit first over anything.
In the early years, I was always quiet and withdrawn whenever we had issues. But it eats me up and I have come to realise that I don’t function well that way, so we talk about it. If it’s a very serious issue, we involve some of our friends whose godly counsel we trust. But these days, we just apologize to each other and explain clearly the angle we are coming from.
Six years in marriage teaches you how to fight fair, how to avoid saying words that will demean the other person in your anger. Most importantly, it teaches you not to fight each other but to fight whatever it is that is the issue, together.
Are there things you don’t like about each other?
Princess: He’s always looking for what to wear to an event on the day of the event and me I don’t like it because I always plan outfits days before I need to wear them.
Lanre: I think one thing I always want her to know is that I’ll never do or say anything with bad intentions. Sometimes it’s easy to assume that your spouse has said or done something specifically to harm you or put you down. We have spoken about this and I think she’s getting comfortable with that truth by the day.
How would you rate the relationship on a scale of 1 – 10?
Princess: On a scale of 1-10, I’d give the relationship an 8. It can be improved upon and we must always leave room for improvement. It’s not a perfect 10, but it is a very healthy 8.
Lanre: We are two imperfect people constantly learning how to love each other perfectly.
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