Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
The subjects of this week’s Love Life are Frank*, 56, and Enobong*, 51. They talk about dating for six years, navigating long-distance in a time without phones and being married for 23 years.
What’s your earliest memory of each other
Frank: I had an office in Ikeja beneath a computer school, and the day she came to register, she said hi to me. We went to the same university back in Calabar, so it was nice to see a familiar face.
Enobong: I was 22 and trying to be useful during holidays, so I enrolled at a computer class. The first day we had a conversation, I mentioned I was going to the market after computer classes. He told me to buy something for him from the market, and I did. I didn’t know what to buy, so I bought him a handkerchief.
Frank: I didn’t think she would buy it. I just said it to continue the conversation.
How did you realise you liked each other?
Enobong: Well, at that time, there was some other person I was talking to. But when I went to visit him one day, he did something that made me realise I didn’t want a relationship with him. I thought, “Frank wouldn’t hurt me like that.” That’s how I realised I genuinely liked him.
Frank: So I was a rebound?
Enobong: Something like that, yes.
Frank: Wow. Well, I realised I liked her when I tried to make her jealous. I had this female friend who came to write exams but was resting in my office. I told the friend to help me gauge Eno’s reaction when she sees me taking her to lunch. As I realised I cared about her reaction, I knew just how much I felt for her.
Were you jealous?
Enobong: Yes now. She was a very pretty girl, and I knew they were close friends. I thought he would go for her over me, but here we are.
Frank: I didn’t even know she was jealous because she never acted on it. She’s never been one for drama.
And how did that progress to dating?
Enobong: Honestly, I don’t remember. I know I started talking to him every day. Before or after the computer classes start, I’d pop into his office to talk.
Frank: Well, we would talk like that for the duration of the computer training period. Then one day, I told her I wanted us to be friends.
Enobong: I remember wondering what he meant. Weren’t we friends? We’d been talking almost every day for a year.
Frank: I liked her a lot and wanted us to be friends. I wanted to know where the feelings would take us.
What was dating like?
Enobong: Well, we saw each other as often as we could because, when the holiday ended, I went back to school in Calabar while he stayed in Lagos. There were no phones then, so we only wrote letters to one another.
Frank: Sometimes, she wouldn’t get my letters, so it was only the love I had for her that kept me going. I’m an architect, and sometimes, I’d get jobs in Calabar, so we’d hangout once or twice during the school year. But asides from that, nothing till the holidays.
How did you people cope?
Enobong: I was busy with school and church, so I didn’t even have the energy to entertain anything else.
Frank: When you love someone, it occupies your mind. My thoughts were filled with her, and I couldn’t think of anyone else. I knew I wanted to marry her, but she was still in school. We decided to wait until she was done with her NYSC.
Funny enough, I’d sworn I would never date anyone who’s still in school because they wouldn’t be faithful to me. But if I’d already broken one rule, waiting for her to finish was something else I could do.
After she was done with NYSC, which was about six years after we started dating, I proposed to her during a get-together at my cousin’s house. I told everyone I had an announcement to make, and I asked her to marry me.
Enobong: I was shocked because I didn’t know he’d planned it, but I’d made up my mind that if I looked for a job for a year and didn’t find one, I’d get married. I loved him enough to marry him immediately, but I wanted to find a job first. When I didn’t, I decided to go ahead with the wedding.
How was that like?
Enobong: My family liked him, but they initially thought I was rushing into it because they didn’t know we’d dated that long. Once I cleared the air with them, they were no longer worried about it. They also thought I should’ve gotten a job first.
Frank: The only problem we could’ve had was that she comes from a very rich family. Me, not so much. My dad had just died, and I was caring for my siblings.
I’m lucky she wasn’t one for extravagance, but I still took it as a challenge upon myself. I wanted to make her happy always. It might be with something small like coming back home with a gift for her, her favourite biscuits, but it’s important she’s happy.
God when? What was it like after the wedding?
Enobong: The year we got married, we had our first child. I don’t think anything about us changed. We were just a couple with a child.
Frank: We prayed a lot and knew this was the path God was leading us to, so we never deterred. Anything that came across as a challenge, we took it to God. We promised ourselves early on that we wouldn’t bring other people into our relationship. It was just us and God.
And your children. How many?
Enobong: We have three children we love very dearly.
Frank: Having children made us love each other more. These were the products of the love we shared.
Enobong: Children bind you to a person, and ours bound me to someone I love.
What’s something about marriage that you realised the older you got?
Frank: Marriage is about working on it. Nobody can say they have it 100%. You started out as strangers, and now, you’re making a life together. There’ll be bumps, but you’ve made the decision to stay together, so you must work on it. You navigate your differences and try to understand.
When we had our third child, there were some complications with the birth and we argued about it for a while. How much rest she was taking and how little she needed to work, but we worked it out.
Enobong: You may have a plan for yourself and the place you want to be at a certain point after being married, but you might not get there. That’s why love is important.
Also, living with someone is much different than dating them. I didn’t know this man was messy. He leaves nylons and food wrappers everywhere.
Frank: It’s not that bad. She’s exaggerating.
Enobong: He’s messy.
Frank: She’s always saying, “I don’t know,” when I ask her questions. How can she not know? I want to make her happy all the time, but I don’t think I have the capacity for it. I try my best though.
Enobong: You do.
On a scale of 1-10, rate your love life
Frank: An 8. If it were a 10/10, it’ll no longer be a human relationship. We still have our shortcomings, but we care about each other greatly.
Enobong: 8.5 because we understand each other. We try our best.