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

What’s your earliest memory of each other?

Michael: I met Chima at a friend’s birthday lunch in 2009. She was a friend of his wife. I’m not sure we’d have gotten to know each other if we didn’t get into a long heated conversation about internal politics between some companies. 

I’d heard about her. She was about to be CEO of an arm of the company she worked at. And I respected her more that day when I heard her speak. I liked how cleverly she argued.

Chima: It was a pleasant evening. I noticed him because we sat at the same side of my friend’s living room. Even though he was a fairly known director in his company, he didn’t force his opinions like most of the other people did during the argument. He’d say what he knew and then stop to listen to other people. I thought he was really respectful. 

So when he called me the next day hoping I wasn’t angry he got my number from his friend, I wasn’t at all. I was glad our interests aligned. It rarely happens that someone makes a good impression on you and you make an impression on the same person.

True. Did he call just to say hi?

Michael: I called to ask her to lunch. But it took a while to align our schedules to make it happen. I later learnt that she thought it would be a waste of time, so she didn’t prioritise. However, I kept pushing for it.

Chima: My lack of interest in a friendship with him seemed to make him keep pushing for a meeting, so by the third week, I felt bad and made time for him. We went out during my ill-used lunch break on a Thursday afternoon.

How did it go?

Chima: It was a definitive two hours for us. He told me I was who he’d been waiting for all his life. At first, I said yinmu. I mean, did he really call me there to drop university lines? 

But you see, he’d also never been married before. 47 and unmarried? I was curious.

Michael: I explained to that her I ruined a long-term relationship because I was hyper-focused on work and achieving my goals. 

I was with my ex for close to ten years. In 2003, she broke things off — she’d fallen out of love with me because I was emotionally unavailable. Meanwhile, I was ready to marry her, but she made me realise we’d lost our connection at some point. 

After that, I focused more on work and my hobbies. It’s hard to get back into the dating pool in your 40s for either gender. Don’t mind what men say.

Chima: I’d also never been married, because of how important building a high-quality career was for me. I could relate to his story more than he probably thought.

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Had you been in any long-term relationships?

Chima: No. 

I had, maybe, four boyfriends or suitors in total, and none of these relationships lasted longer than a year. I sense bullshit really quickly, and I don’t like to deceive myself. There were things I wanted in a life partner, and I was ready to stay single forever if I didn’t get someone close.

My parents, both university professors, raised me to be fiercely independent. I’ve never been invested in marriage as a compulsory milestone in life. I’m much too pragmatic for that. A high quality of life was my main priority, then wide recognition in a field of work, then companionship, in that order.

Michael: We aligned on that. While I’d most likely have been intimidated by her ideals when I was a young man, in my old age of 47, it was exactly what got me excited about her. I was impressed, and I wanted her to be mine to show off.

So what happened after lunch?

Michael: I asked to take her to lunch the same time and day the following week. She agreed.

Chima: We’ve been doing that every week whenever we’re in the same city since then. We go out to eat lunch together every Thursday.

Michael: During our second lunch, we talked about our individual future plans, and I told her I was determined to marry her. She responded that I shouldn’t try to mess with her plans and independence. And I told her, “Not on my life”.

Did you get married soon after?

Michael: No. We had those lunches for almost a year, enjoying each other’s company and discovering what we liked to eat. 

Then I attended her church a couple of times to meet with her spiritual parents and worship together. Our first visit to her church made things feel more real; like we were really seeing each other. It was her way of saying she was beginning to take my interest seriously.

Chima: The turning point in our relationship was in the summer of 2010, when we vacationed together in Cancun. I knew my spirit was accepting that he would be my husband. I felt at one with him. He made the relationship, communication, everything, so easy.

In what ways?

Chima: The way we decided to vacation together, chose a spot, and navigated the planning and logistics. I’d never had a smoother travel experience with anyone. Not even my best girlfriends or parents. 

We just agreed on things. Even when we wanted different hotels or activities, it was easy to find a middle ground that didn’t make me feel bad that I was either shortchanging him or myself.

Michael: I found that she never became deliberately stubborn or domineering just to prove her independence. I loved how thoughtful and politely logical she was at all times.

When I noticed her demeanour softened towards me during our Cancun stay, I made arrangements for a ring shortly after we returned to Lagos. I knew the time was right.

We interviewed these couples five years after we first spoke with them in 2019.
Watch how their relationships have evolved.

How excited were the people around you when you announced your plan to marry?

Michael: Very excited, as you can imagine.

Chima: My parents were surprised. They thought I’d settled for a life of spinsterhood. To be fair, I thought so too. I wasn’t even thinking about marriage when Michael came into the picture.

Michael: I’ll have to say finding someone I align with was a relief. A lot of people had previously tried to matchmake me. My mum would bring young women from the village, and I started to have this paranoia that I’d end up settling with someone I was incompatible with.

Chima, I imagine you also felt the societal pressure to marry

Chima: I didn’t, really. I always shut down the marriage talk because it wasn’t something I’d ever been excited about. I didn’t see the inherent value in it beyond eternal companionship. And if that was the goal, it was more important for me to end up with someone on the same page as me.

Michael: Spoken like a true daughter of professors.

Chima: I couldn’t imagine trying to find someone to marry in my 20s when I was still struggling with my early career and passing all the certification exams. I would’ve been derailed because relationships are high-maintenance.

Then imagine dealing with a young marriage and young children while navigating the fragile mid-level stage of a financial career. I know a lot of people do it successfully, but I also watched people struggle to balance it. It was much easier and faster for me without all that responsibility. 

Michael: There’s something to be said about dating as an advanced adult. Romance was much easier between us than it ever was in my 30s, and I wasn’t ever broke. Just a whole lot more settled and secure in my 40s.

Would you say more people should start dating in their 40s?

Chima: It depends on your priorities. If starting a family is the most important thing to you, then of course, there’s biologically an ideal period for pregnancy.

Michael: All we’re saying is it was much easier to court and establish a strong foundation of romance, friendship and partnership when we weren’t also trying to establish a decent career or individual life path. We could both think clearly as we went in.

Speaking of family and pregnancy…

Chima: I had a natural birth in 2012, a year after we got married. But after our first child, we opted for surrogacy for the other two. We hadn’t even spoken about children when I got pregnant. We almost took him out. But I’m glad I got to experience that pregnancy and labour.

Michael: I was terrified when she gave me the positive pregnancy results from the doctors, and for a week, we’d resolved it was wise to abort. We wanted kids, but we were also cock sure it was unsafe for her at 44. But her O&G of about a decade said he’d never seen a more healthy pregnancy. He convinced us, so we decided to take a chance.

Chima: Right after that, I got implants.

Michael: Surrogacy was also scary. I’d heard a lot about it. But I still had so many questions. 

Would the baby have some of the surrogate mother’s DNA? What if she clings to the baby psychologically and never wants to let go? What if the baby doesn’t ever bond with its biological mother? 

But we did it twice, and everything went fine in the end.

What was your first major fight about?

Chima: We fought a lot when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. That’s how I found out that people develop new personalities when they’re sick, and mine was mean. 

I was so cruel to Michael on my sick bed that when I think back to that time, I feel I ran temporarily mad.

Michael: It’s like when they say someone is a mean drunk.

Chima: I’d throw stuff at him when he tried to help me stand or anything at all. I even bit him sometimes.

Michael: We fought about things like whether she could work and take on projects while undergoing chemo. Things got worse when she had to do a mastectomy.

We fought about going to church and believing in God for her healing. I was very determined to have her fly to the UK for the surgery instead. 

She thought I was ruining the faith that would’ve brought her miracle.

Chima: This went on until the cancer left in January 2022.

Thank God. How hard was it to get back to normal after a serious illness and numerous fights?

Michael: Whatever resentment that festered was neutralised by her new clean bill of health. The genuine joy and relief was strong. 

My wife was supposed to be dying, but she wasn’t anymore. I was just grateful we had a clean slate.

Chima: I also went out of my way to invalidate all my mean words and actions once I got my strength back. I made it clear I meant none of that, and I’ve been more intentional about kind words and gestures.

Michael: She spoils me and won’t let me spoil her. So instead of feeling upset about the past, all I feel is gratitude for life.

How would you rate your Love Life on a scale of 1 to 10?

Michael: We just got a second chance at life together, and it’s been more of a 10 than ever.

Chima: 10. He’s a reminder of God’s promise to me that his time is the best.

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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