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

Salem, 26, and Precious, 26, have been dating for three years. This week on Love Life, they talk about meeting on Instagram, starting a long distance relationship and couple’s therapy.

What’s your earliest memory of each other? 

Precious: In January 2019, while I was still in the UK, my friend shared this video of a boy in a monochrome fit. I clicked on it to hear what he had to say because he looked cute. He talked about creating content. His voice was so smooth. I caught myself smiling and I was like, “Why am I blushing? Do I even know this boy from anywhere?” When I shared his video, he DMed me to say thank you and that’s how we started talking. 

Salem: When I sent her the DM, I went through her profile and saw that she grew up in Abuja. Abuja is really small so I was surprised we’d never met, and I told her this. She said she felt like she should know me but she’d been to ten different schools. I had never met someone who had been to that many schools. I wanted to hear all about it. She said the gist would be sweeter on WhatsApp.

Precious: I was using scope to collect his number. On WhatsApp, our gist started at 7 a.m. and lasted till 4 a.m. the next day. We talked about school, work and everything in between. We’re both from the north so we had similar childhood experiences. We bonded over how we grew up. We also talked about music.

It felt like two old friends catching up. I found out that he was attending the same church I attended when I was in Nigeria. This meant we had a lot of mutual friends. At the end of the discussion, I said, “We’re going to be good friends.” I knew that I already liked him but I feared that I’d come on too strong so I just used the word “friends”. For me, it was love at first conversation. 

Sweet. How did you two go from talking to dating? 

Precious: We continued to talk everyday after that. I told him about my health. I’m a sickle cell patient and dating has been quite a journey for me because of this. When I told Salem about it, he said he wasn’t going to tell me he’ll be my ride or die because that’d be a lie, but he’d learn as much as possible about the disease. That melted my heart. 

Salem: One day, she tweeted that the person she used to send memes and tweets to had a girlfriend now so she was looking for a replacement. I sent a DM asking what the position involved? 

Precious: I told him there were some things I couldn’t laugh at publicly so I needed someone to send them to. He said he was down for the job. Some days later, he told me he liked me, and I told him I liked him back. It wasn’t too long after that he asked me to be his girlfriend. Our talking stage lasted all of two weeks. 

How did you ask her out, Salem? 

Salem: We were texting one day, and she said, “I’m not sure I can wait for seven months before I see you to be able to date you.” I told her I didn’t plan on waiting that long. 

Precious: Then he called my full government name, “Precious Shekwonaknigami Gaza”, will you be my girlfriend? I loved how intentional he was even though he wasn’t right in front of me.  Of course, I said yes. 

Salem: I said we needed a relationship plan since we were about to become a long distance couple. 

Precious: I was supposed to come back to Nigeria, but for some reason, my trip got cancelled so I was stuck in the UK for seven months before we met. 

Tell me about your relationship

Salem: As soon as we started dating, we set our ground rules. We asked each other for dos and don’ts and set boundaries. It was clear to me that she knew what she wanted, which is something I had not experienced before. Some of the women I’d met would want me to read their minds. Precious was explicit about how she likes to be loved. 

Precious: Yup, and so far, loving him has been an interesting journey. In September 2019, I came back to Nigeria, and Salem and I met. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other. I stayed two months before returning to the UK, and we resumed our long distance relationship. 

Salem: She came back in 2020 for NYSC and we’ve been living in the same city since then. 

What’s that been like? 

Salem: It was almost like we were starting our relationship afresh. There was a lot I didn’t know about how she functioned in person because most of our interaction was on FaceTime. We had to learn each other’s lifestyle and we had a lot of fights while we were at it. 

Precious: For example, he likes his space and I like to invade his space. Another thing is I love to go out to eat but Salem is a homebody. Whenever I say, “Let’s go to a restaurant”, in his mind, we’re going to pick up and go back home, while I’m thinking we should sit and eat. This could lead to a mini squabble. 

Salem: Honestly, things changed when she came back. I thought she was like me because when she was in the UK, she used to cook a lot but maybe it was sapa. 

Precious: LOL. The weather is cold — where am I going to? Plus, all your money will finish so I was being economical in the UK. But now, I’ve come back to Nigeria with my pounds, is it not time to enjoy? 

LOL. I’m curious about how you people navigated the changes? 

Salem:

We’re still navigating it. We compromise a lot. We’ll go out and I’ll stay longer than I want because of her, and sometimes, she’ll stay at home because of me. So far, we’re doing good. 

Another thing that has caused fight for us is my relocating to Lagos. 

Ehn?

Salem: I moved to Lagos for work. When I first had the conversation with Precious, it caused serious wahala.

Precious: I was crying as if they beat me.

Salem: To her, it’s like I wanted to leave her. I had to tell her it’s not about her. I love you and I want a bright future for us. It was hard to convince her but eventually she came around. One random day, she sent me a message saying, “Sorry, I wasn’t supportive when you needed me. Now, I see the big picture, I get it.” 

We take turns to visit each other in our different cities. 

Sweet. Can you tell me about the biggest fight you’ve ever had?

Precious: One time, I fell sick and I wasn’t on my best behaviour. The truth is whenever I’m sick, my good morals go out the window because I get frustrated. Salem was doing all he could to make me comfortable, but I was snapping at him. 

Salem: I got really mad about it. 

Precious: My logic was that I was sick so I should be allowed to be irritable. I expected him to have some grace for me. 

Salem: I wasn’t having it. I told her the least she could do was not snap at me. We talked it out and she apologised. Then, we decided to go to therapy. 

Ou. Tell me about therapy 

Precious: We’ve had four sessions so far and I think couple’s therapy should be normalised. 

Our therapist looks at things from both our perspectives and finds a middle ground for us to agree on. It’s such an intimate experience having your flaws listed but it allows me accept that I messed up. It shows me how I can fix up. 

Salem: She asks a lot of questions that help us reach a conclusion we know for a fact we wouldn’t have been able to by ourselves. She points out the ways in which we’re ask each other for too much, and we try to work on those aspects. 

Precious: Yes, therapy helped me see the ways my blood disorder affects our relationship. 

Can you tell me about that? 

Precious: First of all, he’s an amazing caretaker. He went from not knowing anything about sickle cell to becoming one of my primary caretakers. I can’t imagine what it’s like for him to have the person he loves in constant pain. 

Salem: But it’s been tough. When she was still in the UK, offering support via FaceTime was easier. With her in Nigeria, it became a different ball game. Nothing could’ve prepared me for what I’ve experienced as a caregiver. I never had to spend nights at the hospital until we started dating. 

One time, she was really sick and needed oxygen so she was rushed to the hospital. I had only seen stuff like that in movies, and then, the first time I was seeing it in real life, it was my partner. It was stunning but I’m learning to live with it. 

Precious: I, on the other hand, have learnt to not downplay caregiving. 

Nice. What attracts you to each other? 

Precious: I love that he speaks really well. I love that he is dark-skinned and tall. He also has a nice smile that I adore. 

Another thing that attracted me to him is his lack of toxic masculinity. He’s confident in his sexuality so he’s not afraid to be emotional and vulnerable with me. It’s something I really appreciate. He’s also very flexible and always ready to learn. 

Salem: I love that Precious is tenacious and strong. One of my favourite things about her is that she lives like everyday is the best day of her life, as if she’s not an adult with responsibilities and stuff. I always like to say I’m in her life just to be here for her so she doesn’t float into space out of joy and spontaneity, while she’s in my life so I don’t stay on the ground forever. 

I also love that she’s ambitious. I work hard but I’m not trying to be Bill Gates, but Precious is actually trying to be president of the world. She goes hard at everything she decides to do and I’m a huge fan. 

Rate this relationship on a scale of one to ten.

Precious: 11 for me. I found my best friend and soulmate in one person. Apart from the romance in our relationship, there’s also a very solid friendship, and I love that about us. 

Salem: 11 for me too because I can’t imagine life with anybody else. 

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