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

Let’s start at the beginning. How did you meet?

Enyinna: We met about four years ago, working in the same department of a tech startup in Lagos. It was a challenging environment, to say the least.

Tolani: Absolutely. Working there was tough; the pressure, the long hours and insults from our team lead when we didn’t meet one unrealistic goal or the other. But we somehow found solace in each other in the middle of the chaos. 

We’d have long talking sessions during working hours, where we’d step into the restroom corridor and talk about how depressed we were. We just found it easy to talk to each other more than anyone else in the office. I don’t know why, but it was a relief because all my parents and friends had to say when I complained was different versions of “Be grateful you have such a good job”.

When did you realise there was something more than friendship between you?

Enyinna: It took a while. We were both so engrossed in surviving the corporate chaos.

Tolani: I remember one day in 2019. We were working late on a project, and Eyinna made this terrible joke to lighten the mood. I burst out laughing, and at that moment, I looked at him differently. It was like I saw a side of him that went beyond the workplace stress.

How did the transition from friends to “more than friends” happen?

Enyinna: It was a slow burn, you know? We started spending more time outside of the office — getting drinks after late nights at work, exploring new bars in Lekki. At that time, a new one would always spring up every month.

Tolani: Then COVID happened, and our workplace became even more toxic. There was investors’ wahala, company politics, layoffs and emotional blackmail, but we had each other to lean on.

As your relationship evolved, how did your colleagues react?

Enyinna: It was interesting. Office gossip has a way of spreading like wildfire. Especially when you’re working with so many young people.

Tolani: We tried to keep it low-key at first. But as we transitioned from remote to hybrid work, our colleagues started noticing that we were spending more time together despite the social distancing rule, going to lunch, and all that.

Enyinna: Most of them were supportive. Some even teased us about being the office “power couple”.

Tolani: Of course, there were a few raised eyebrows and hushed conversations, but overall, people were happy for us. We were genuine friends before anything romantic happened, so I think that made a difference.

Given how toxic the job was, did your growing relationship make things worse?

Tolani: Surprisingly, no. Things were still as toxic as ever. But we were both professionals, and we made a conscious effort to keep our personal and professional lives separate.

Enyinna: Our coworkers saw we were still committed to our work, and if anything, our relationship brought positive energy to the tense office. The pressure and constant scrutiny into what value you were bringing the company were the bigger problems. But having Tolani by my side made it bearable. We’d vent to each other, strategise on how to handle certain situations, and sometimes, just escape for a quick breather.

Tolani: We realised we weren’t only surviving but thriving because we had each other’s backs.

But why did you choose to stay at your toxic job rather than seek new opportunities elsewhere?

Enyinna: That’s a valid question. 

The truth is leaving a job, especially in an environment like Lagos, isn’t always a straightforward decision. The job market is highly competitive, and finding a new opportunity that aligns with your skills and career goals takes time. Also, the pay at that place was great; very few companies could match it.

Tolani: A lot of our earlier conversations when we started off as friends was an endless loop of  “I think I’ll turn in my resignation,” “Should I just do it?” “I’m doing it at the end of the month,” “Maybe I should just wait till I get an offer” and more. Despite the toxicity, the devil you know sometimes feels safer than the unknown. 

We were also hopeful that things might change and the workplace culture might improve. The founders and management always promised that.

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How did you cope with the job while remaining committed to each other?

Enyinna: It was a delicate balance. We had to be there for each other emotionally, yet we couldn’t let the stress of work affect our relationship. We found solace in the fact that we were in it together, facing the challenges side by side.

Tolani: It was also about setting boundaries. We made a conscious effort to leave work-related stress at the office door. Weekends became sacred for us — time to rejuvenate and focus on our relationship.

Knowing what you know now, do you think leaving the job earlier would’ve been a better decision?

Tolani: Looking back, yes. Leaving earlier might’ve spared us some pain. But at the same time, enduring those challenges together strengthened our bond and resilience.

Enyinna: Sometimes, the toughest experiences shape us the most. While leaving earlier might have been a practical choice, it wouldn’t have given us the opportunity to grow together in the way we did.

Tolani: But then the toxicity never ended, and we began to question if this was the life we wanted forever.

Enyinna: One day, Tolani asked me, “Let’s do Canada together?” We’d talked about japa on-and-off several times. Which Nigerian hasn’t? I was thinking of going to the UK for my master’s, one of my aunts was also trying to encourage me and my brother to come to the US. But none of those plans seemed realistic.

Tolani: I was considering school in the UK or Europe, but Canada made the most sense because three of my cousins were already Permanent Residents in the country. So when I started truly considering it in 2021, I knew I had to raise it with Enyinna too. We were fully committed at this point; all my family and friends knew him.

Enyinna: It was a crazy idea at first, but the more we talked about it, the more it made sense. We did our research, considering various factors like quality of life, job opportunities and cultural diversity. Canada seemed like the perfect fit for us.

Tolani: Plus, we were drawn to the idea of a fresh start, away from the toxicity that had defined our lives for too long.

How did the relocation process go?

Enyinna: It was filled with expenses, paperwork, uncertainties and countless checklists. But knowing we were doing it together made it easier.

Tolani: We supported each other through the highs and lows of the immigration process that took a whole year, juggling it with our 9-to-5 at that same place. Not only did we pitch our funds together, but both of our families contributed as well. We finally left Nigeria in July 2022.

How do you feel about each other now, being in Canada?

Tolani: We’re in a new country, and we did it together. Canada feels like a fresh chapter. Enyinna is my rock, and I can’t imagine going through it all without him.

Enyinna: It hasn’t all been easy. The initial months were tough. Adapting to a new culture and finding our footing in a different work environment comes with its share of challenges. I mean, it’s cold and lonely, but we can be lonely together and warm each other up, easy. 

The change of scenery has almost sucked out all the depression that made us feel helpless in Nigeria and replaced it with a sense of excitement and opportunity.

Tolani: The weather! We weren’t used to the Canadian winter, but we’ve learnt to embrace it together. Navigating the challenges of immigration made us rely on each other in new ways. It’s helped us learn useful communication lessons. My cousins live in different cities, and Canada is a huge place. When you’re in a new country, away from family and friends, talking to each other becomes even more crucial.

Enyinna: We’ve made new friends now. We had to make an effort to build a social circle. Meeting new people, making friends, it’s all contributed to making Canada feel like home.

Any thoughts on marriage or starting a family?

Tolani: We’re taking it one step at a time. Right now, we’re focused on settling in, building our careers and enjoying the adventure.

Enyinna: Marriage is definitely on the horizon. We’ve discussed it, and it’s part of our plans. As for starting a family, that’s something we’re open to later in the future.

What’s one unconventional thing about your relationship now that you’ve settled in Canada?

Tolani: Our shared love for exploring thrift stores and flea markets. You’d never catch me doing that in Lagos, but we’ve found some treasures during our weekend trips to these shops here in Calgary.

Enyinna: It’s true. Our closet is like a curated collection of quirky and vintage finds. It actually started by accident. We stumbled upon a small thrift store while exploring the neighbourhood several months after we moved in. Tolani was drawn to a vintage kimono in this open market, and we were shocked at how cheap it was.

Tolani: Now, it’s become a ritual for us to spend at least one Saturday a month exploring thrift stores. One time, we found a very well-preserved Chanel bag. Another time, it was an old Polaroid camera that still worked. We’ve since used it to capture special moments in our new life in Canada.

Enyinna: It’s not about just spending money, but saving on items that would ordinarily be expensive.

We’ve also developed a tradition of cooking meals from different cultures every Sunday. It started as a way to embrace the diversity around us, and now, it’s something we look forward to each week.

Tolani: It’s not as bougie as he makes it sound. 

We pick a country, shop for the ingredients in our local supermarket, and try our hand at cooking their simplest dishes, like ramen or pastrami, stuff like that. Sometimes, it’s based on a place we’ve always wanted to visit. Other times, it’s completely random, or based on what grocery capsules are available at the store. 

Enyinna: Our Indian neighbour, a very nice housewife, inspired us to do this. She offered to make us curry sauce in our first month in the apartment. She came into our kitchen with the ingredients to make it for us in our brand-new pots. The way she made cooking seem like such a therapeutic pastime rubbed off on us. 

It’s also a way for us to learn more about each other’s tastes and preferences. We’ve discovered some cool dishes through this. We both love pepper, thanks to our Lagos upbringing, but now, we’ve gotten to appreciate sweet, sour and savoury.

Can you tell us about your first major fight after moving to Canada?

Enyinna: It’s a funny story now, but it felt like a big deal at the time. Our first major disagreement was about how to set up our new apartment.

Tolani: We had different ideas about furniture placement, decor and all those seemingly little things. It was a clash of our individual styles.

Enyinna: It started innocently enough. We were excited about decorating our new place, but when it came down to making decisions, we realised our tastes were different.

Tolani: I wanted a cosy, eclectic vibe with lots of colours and patterns. Enyinna preferred a more minimalist and modern look. It took some compromise, that’s for sure. We had to find a middle ground that reflected both our styles.

Enyinna: I remember how we spent hours debating the colour, style and size of the sofa. It became a symbol of our differing tastes. In the end, we found one we both liked, and now, we call it our “compromise piece”.

Compromising on the aesthetics of our home was a small price to pay for the happiness of our relationship.

Tolani: We also learnt to appreciate each other’s tastes more. Our home is now this unique blend of cosy and modern elements that represent both of us. It’s chaotic, sha. But it taught us that compromise is an essential part of any relationship. We had to find solutions that made both of us happy.

Enyinna: And it’s okay to have different tastes. Our home reflects our individuality and the beauty of coming together.

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

Enyinna: I would say a solid 9. Our love life is thriving. We’ve overcome challenges, built a life together in a new country, and our connection continues to deepen.

Tolani: I’m right there with Enyinna with a 9. We’ve created a strong foundation, and there’s so much love, laughter and shared dreams in our relationship. We talk about everything — our goals, fears and even the little things that make us happy. I feel very understood and close to him, and it’s the best feeling.

A perfect 10 is an ongoing journey, and we’re excited to see where it leads.

Check back every Thursday by 9 AM for new Love Life stories here. The stories will also be a part of the Ships newsletter, so sign up here.

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