Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
Bear* (25) and Nala* (27) tell us about how they started dating one week after their first date. They also talk about having to define the structure of their relationship, the different ways they practice polyamory and the uncertainty of their future.
How did you meet?
Bear: We ran into each other at an event called Green Camp. It was the first time we met physically, and there was sexual tension but we didn’t act on anything until this year when I saw her again on a Friday at South, Lagos in March 2022.
Prior to that, we’ve been following each other since 2016. I’ll always text her in a bid to try starting a connection but she wasn’t giving me the proper energy. I kept trying to take it beyond the banter we were having on the timeline, but she kept killing whatever fire I tried to light.
Nala: To be honest, it’s not his fault. He is attractive and based on the conversations we had on the timeline, I could see our views aligned.
I’m just a shitty person when it comes to maintaining contact with people via text. I used to think I liked texting, but what I really liked was the ability to respond to texts at my own time. The best I could maintain with him were topical conversations that didn’t really go anywhere. The problem was just that I was busy with work. I apologised for it.
That’s a long time
Nala: He wasn’t pursuing me for that long, but we knew of each other.
So, let’s talk about the meeting at South
Nala: My motivation for going to South was because I was hoping to go and see him.
Bear: Ehn? See who?
Nala: Let me tell my story.
Bear: You did not come to see me. Let’s not rewrite history. She didn’t come to see me. What happened was that I came and then stole the show.
Nala: Anyways, I saw him and was distracted from the person I actually came to see. I think at that moment, I started to wonder why I was actually running away from him.
Bear: Let me tell you what really happened because to be fair, I think I’m better at detailing events and memories.
I was having one of those high confidence days. I looked good and felt it. While I was trying to get a drink, I turned and we saw each other — she was right beside me. And her look was different. It said, “It’s time, I’m ready for you.”
However, she was with someone else, and I didn’t know what the relationship was. We interacted and made plans to actually hang out on the island on Sunday.
How did the hangout go?
Bear: Sunday came and I didn’t hear from her untill 4 p.m. when I had already left the island. She felt bad about it and so we scheduled to meet during the week. She came to see me on Friday.
Nala: I’ll just like to add that I was working at the time. I had zero personal time and wasn’t as flexible as I wanted. I have time blindness and sometimes I get so wrapped up in one task, I forget the others I had set out to do.
Did you eventually have that rescheduled date?
Nala: Yes, we did, and after it happened, I kept asking myself why it didn’t happen earlier.
Bear: I was very excited. I don’t know how, but everything just kind of aligned. Something that made me aware this was different was when we kissed. I think that’s how I describe our relationship till now.
The kiss was like a warm embrace. Like something I didn’t know I existed up until it happened. At that moment, I felt like I was walking through a desert and someone just pinned me down and force-fed me water. It was the best tasting water I’ve had in my life. I had never felt this way kissing someone before. It was a very emotionally charged and special day. As much as it was physical, there was a lot of emotional vulnerability that day.
After the date, her schedule suddenly blew wide open. She suddenly had my time.
Nala: You know why it blew open. I don’t know why you’re acting like this.
Nala: My client actually left the country, and I had a lot of time on my hands.
Bear: Honestly, after that first date, everything just kind of aligned. We hung out every day for one week, and we were courageous enough to be emotionally vulnerable and talk about what we were feeling.
What kind of vulnerability and emotions are we talking about?
Bear: Around the time we started dating, my mum was having a medical emergency and it cost a lot of money so I was pretty low on funds. I started feeling ashamed about my general financial situation and I started to pull away. She called me out on it and then opened up a space where I could just talk about all the things I was feeling and going through. She helped me get to the root cause of my emotions and from there I was able to work towards getting better.
Nala: I had some insecurities about my body. Whenever I brought up how I felt, he was really patient and was able to empathise with what I was going through.
You started dating after one week. Why?
Nala: I couldn’t get enough of his company, so we spent every moment together.
Bear: At some point, she mentioned in passing that if we were going to enter into a relationship, she needed me to ask her out. She may have mentioned it in passing, but I had it ingrained in my head. At that point, I had a different relationship structure I needed to find a way to dismantle before officially coming into a relationship with her.
While I was trying to do all of that, I decided to just go ahead and ask her out. I hadn’t felt that way about anyone before and I didn’t want to waste time.
I asked her out on a Saturday night in March, after we had finished having sex. After the very intense session, I kept looking at her and I could feel my chest flutter and tingle. So I went on a long talk that I don’t remember the details of, but I know ended with, “I want you to be my girlfriend.” She said yes.
Nala: I’d spent a lot of time single and I used that time to reflect on what I didn’t want in a relationship. However, I didn’t know what exactly it was I wanted. He invoked a lot of strong feelings in me and I realised that’s something I wanted. A partner that made me happy and invoked strong feelings in me. I loved him. It was a no brainer I’d say yes. I don’t know why or how it happened, but I know I was in love with him.
One of the reasons I mentioned him asking me out is because we were already edging towards “falling” into a relationship. We did all the things couples did and were settling into a comfortable routine. I didn’t want to wake up one day and start having a “So what are we?” conversation.
Bear: All my years of pursuing older women finally paid off because I was able to bag this one.
Nala: It’s just a two-year difference.
What was dating like?
Bear: Well, for one, we had to define the dynamic of our relationship. I came into the relationship as a polyamorous person or how do they say it?
Nala: He likes women and women like him and everybody is on his tail.
Bear: Jesus. It’s everybody that likes you. Men, women, all of them. I knew I wasn’t monogamous, but I wasn’t sure what the details were. What I knew was that if I was going to figure out whatever this was with anybody, it was going to be her.
I think you both described this thing differently. So let’s break it down
Bear: So the other relationships I was involved in were the things I had to settle before I could be with her. I was coming off of what can maybe be described as a harem.
Nala: Ah ha! So was I wrong in my description of everyone being on your tail?
Bear: LMAO. When Nala and I eventually started dating, I told them there was someone I had to prioritise because she became my primary partner.
Before then, I had a system where I try to make sure my lovers are on the same level or that they feel like they have equal space in my heart, but they could tell there was something with Nala that was different.
When I broke the news to them, most survived but those that didn’t morphed into proper friendships.
Nala: I’m polyam as well, but for me, I handle my people with varying degrees of intimacy. I’m not as into people as he is. He’s more of a golden retriever type that’s friends with everyone. I am more detached. I don’t have that much mental energy.
Bear: So the way we practised was kind of different.
Nala: I knew what I had was working for me, and I liked it that way. When Bear and I started dating, I informed my other partners, but unlike his, mine was like bulk SMS. Just hey, I’ll see you around and also, I have someone now.
How then do you both navigate this structure you’ve created for yourselves?
Nala: I wanted to approach this relationship from a place of complete honesty with my feelings and emotions. I’ve tried traditional monogamy, and I’ve had some failings in it.
Knowing he was polyamorous as well was a step in the right direction. The conversation about wanting other people, even when you’re with someone you’re romantically invested in is always a tricky one to have, but I didn’t have to worry about that with him.
To an extent, there’s still a nagging feeling I have. Like does he like this person more than he likes me and stuff like that, but it’s usually just a casual thought. It’s hardly ever something I have strong evidence to back up. Plus, it helps that whenever I feel like this, I can just have a conversation with him.
Bear: For me, I think jealousy is something that can exist no matter the type of relationship. It could be a friendship, a business relationship or anything. Having a conversation and reassurance really helps.
We have just one rule in place, and it’s that she’s my primary partner and I’m hers, and the only thing that can be considered cheating is when we put other people before each other.
Nala: We don’t really have firm rules. It’s just that we need to make sure our interests are protected before anything else.
Do you see yourself getting other primary partners or dating one person as a couple?
Bear: I know my partner, and I don’t think she has the emotional capacity or range to include another person into this relationship. The third person will suffer because they’d have to rely on only me for all their emotional needs.
Nala: LMAO. We’ve gotten offers from people wanting to come in.
Bear: But they should just enjoy what they have now because inside? You’ll be starved. As for getting another girlfriend, I don’t think I want one, at least not now. I haven’t met anyone I like enough to want that from.
Nala: I don’t think I have someone on my radar that triggers as much emotion as Bear does. I won’t say I love anyone to the level that I love him and I consider that a requirement for getting into a relationship with someone. I have other relationships beyond this, but none of them just have the same level of intimacy.
On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your love life?
Nala: I’ll give it an 8 because of some of the uncertainties that come with our future and because there’s always need for improvement. We don’t know what next year holds for either of us in terms of if we’re even still going to be in the country. Let’s survive Nigeria first. It’s almost painful to think about so we haven’t had a final discussion on what our future looks like.
I’m so happy in the relationship and I wouldn’t trade this for anything else. I enjoy the fact that he’s a really calming influence. He also doesn’t mind going under the sun to do things for me. I sweat easily and the sun makes me uncomfortable so he sometimes runs errands for me. It just works for me.
Bear: 9 for me. Nala is more raging fire and I’m more chill and calm. There are days you can see the fire raging, and she’s burning up everything in her path, but when she gets to me, she becomes a calm little blue flame. I admire the fact that she usually softens up when she meets me. I’m baby, and I don’t like stress.
I love how we can banter over anything and can discuss a wide range of topics because of how much our politics align. I love her simply because she exists. The only reason I’m not giving it a 10 is because of the uncertainties surrounding our future