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

What’s your earliest memory of each other?

Ene: We met through a women-only LGBTQ+ support group exactly ten years ago. I’d just joined the community through an invitation from someone I met at work, and they hosted a book club meeting about a month after. I love to read so I happily attended. 

I sat beside Nduka; her big smile and nice scent caught my attention. We became fast friends.

Nduka: I remember we discussed “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, and she made a joke about how hard it was to get copies of new foreign books. She’d read a pirated ebook online, and it turned out more than half of us in that room had done the same. We exchanged numbers and email addresses because I wanted to send her some other books I liked. 

When did you realise you liked each other?

Ene: The group organised hangouts at least once a month, and we’d always chat each other up to check if the other person was attending. She lived not too far away from me at the time, so we started attending together. I don’t usually like going to places where I don’t know anyone, so I’d have stopped going to those things if not for her. 

By the third time we did that, we’d formed a bond outside my usual friend group. She became the only person I could talk to about anything remotely queer; all my friends leaned toward homophobia.

Nduka: I’d been part of the community for about a year then, and had made many friends. But with her, I drifted apart from the other girls. Something about her being new to the whole lifestyle made her really attractive to me, so I did all I could to support her without being pushy. 

I knew I liked her the first day we went for a games night together in the same cab. I wanted to kiss her many times, but I held back. 

What was the turning point from all that holding back?

Nduka: Months after we met, she asked me if we could be friends outside just meeting because of the community.

Ene: I liked her a lot, but we only ever talked or hung out when there was a community activity. I wanted more than that. She said, “Of course,” but between work and the fact that I was paranoid about being outside together, we still only hung out with the community for months. 

Nduka: Then one Sunday, I just called and asked if I could come to her house. She still lived with her parents, so her “yes” was hesitant. I came anyway, and we stayed in her room the whole day talking and reading. 

Our relationship shifted to something beyond friendship that day. We kept looking at each other and our conversation was strongly flirtatious.

Ene: I was so shy and was constantly blushing.

Walk me through how you started dating

Nduka: After that day, we started having these long phone calls. But we also missed several community hangouts.

Ene: I think we were scared to be together in public. I was probably the scared one.

Nduka: No, I just knew I’d try to kiss or constantly hug you. And I don’t think you were ready for that.

Ene: The founders kept calling me to make sure I was fine. I wanted to tell them I think I’ve fallen in love with another member, and I don’t know how to act.

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I feel you, girl

Ene: Thank you.

Nduka: Anyway, during those phone calls, I’d sneak in that all I wanted was for her to be my girlfriend. And she’d find a way to sidetrack. It was so frustrating.

Ene: I didn’t want to read too much meaning into anything. And I’d also never dated a girl. I really didn’t know how to act.

Nduka: One day, I landed in her house once more. It was a Saturday, and it was just her mum who was home and in the living room. I kissed her, we made out for a bit, and I looked her in the eyes and said, “Please, be my girlfriend.” She shook her head but still said yes. That’s how I knew I was in for a rollercoaster.

Scrim. What happened?

Nduka: Our relationship for the next year or so was just her sneaking into my house — I’d moved out of my parents house and only had a roommate — and us making out, sometimes, having sex. That was it. I tried for a little romance. We’d buy each other gifts all the time, but we could never go out, and I couldn’t even hold her hand at community hangouts.

Ene: I was shy and scared.

Nduka: At first, it was fun showing her all the ways queer sex is better for women. But after a while, I wanted more. 

Don’t get me wrong, we also had very beautiful conversations. We’d open up to each other about everything and I’d feel so connected to her. So I told myself to be content with that.

Did you talk to her about wanting more?

Nduka: I brought it up. But I was also scared of pushing her back into the closet, so I treaded carefully.

Ene: She’s a really affectionate person. I kept thinking we’d be in public and she wouldn’t be able to help getting close to me and patting my hair out of my face or something. 

I also knew my friends wouldn’t accept her because she’s always been so openly queer. Yet I admired that about her. How boldly she’s who she is.

How has your relationship evolved since then?

Nduka: We’ve come so far, and it really just took us getting comfortable with each other. 

There were times when I thought I’d leave her for someone else. But I knew the other people wouldn’t be as open and sincere as her. I’d been with like four people before her and the relationships were always shallow and sexual. Not with her.

It was jarring to accept that I’d fallen in love with Ene at some point.

Ene: She was patient with me. 

I remember when we went on our first date in 2018. I was like, what was I so scared about. It was a lovely dinner at a restaurant, and it felt good to be with her in the open. We didn’t overthink or talk too much about it beforehand. It was just time.

Nduka: In 2019, we talked about getting married. But it was a funny conversation because we weren’t even discussing marrying each other. We were talking about if she’d have to marry a man. Her mum had suddenly started asking her about it, and it was the first time we addressed the fact that we couldn’t even get married. What did that mean for our commitment to each other?

Ene: I decided I didn’t want to marry anyone if I couldn’t marry her, so we moved in together soon after.

How does not being able to wed really feel?

Nduka: It sucks. 

Ene: It makes me feel vulnerable, and sometimes, insecure about our relationship.

Nduka: After so long together, it’s something we can comfortably ignore. We focus on what exists: the love between us, how important we are to each other. Everything else is just semantics.

After so long together, do your parents, family or friends know?

Ene: I came out to my parents finally in 2021. And it was the scariest experience ever. I don’t know how I did it. I think they were so shocked they just pretend I never existed.

Nduka: I mean, they still check in on you from time to time.

Ene: My eldest brother heard and kept saying, “But you’re both so feminine. How does it work?” He was just laughing at me. It felt invalidating. I don’t know which would’ve been worse, what I got or anger.

Nduka: My mum knew I was queer from my uni days. But she’s prayed against the “spirit in me” to this day. 

I think what’s surprising, though, is how our families still quietly support us despite their differing beliefs. They still check in on us. My elder sisters are always in my house wanting to hangout. Most of my friends are open minded. But we had to lose most of her friends.

How did you feel about that, Ene?

Ene: Sad. 

But I never felt truly accepted among my friends, so I don’t let myself get too sad. This one “friend” actually started telling everyone, spreading gossip and lies about our relationship. It was toxic. Those weren’t really friends.

Nduka: We’ve made so many new healthy ones together.

Ene: The community has been the perfect support group. Our friends there are some of the best people I’ve ever known.

What does the future look like for your relationship?

Ene: We’ve been talking about children. I’ve always wanted kids so it’s been a major topic between us for the last couple of years. We’re still torn between getting a sperm donor we know or using a sperm bank for the IVF.

Nduka: We’ve been visiting fertility clinics, and they’ve been surprisingly homophobic.

Ene: We realised it’s smoother to approach them as a single mother than as a queer couple. And that’s been heartbreaking because it’s not like they particularly support an unmarried woman wanting kids either.

Nduka: Adoption was ruled out for obvious reasons. Crazy, but IVF is actually cheaper too.

Interesting. What about the pushback you may get while raising children as a queer couple in Nigeria?

Nduka: We’ve thought about it. But society has already taken the option to marry away from us. We won’t let them take this too.

Ene: I know it’ll be drama, especially when they start going to primary and secondary school. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. I’m scared, but not scared enough to not at least try.

Fair. What was your first major fight about?

Ene: We fight about money a lot. She’s too extravagant with her spending, especially on gadgets and appliances.

Nduka: Or you’re too thrifty. She’s saving for the apocalypse or something. She can go days without spending a dime, which is a skill that’s thankfully rubbed off on me.

Ene: A little. 

Anyway, I wouldn’t call them major fights. Don’t think we’ve had a major fight.

Nduka: No.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your Love Life?

Nduka: 8. Nigeria should let us marry in peace.

Ene: Yes, 8. When it’s just us, it’s perfect. But once the world comes in…

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