Love Life: Her Life Changed Mine

July 22, 2021

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

Joshua, 30, and Opeyemi, 27, met each other in NYSC Camp in Taraba. On today’s episode of Love Life, they talk about battling addictions, speaking in tongues and learning each other’s love languages.

What’s your earliest memory of each other?

Joshua: I met Opeyemi during NYSC camp in Taraba. After I got notification of my posting, a friend of mine gave me the phone number of someone from her secondary school alumni group who had also been posted to Taraba. I arrived at camp late in the night and went to eat at mammy market. While I was eating, a guy and girl joined my table and were talking about what happened on their way to camp. From what I could make out from their conversation, a stranger had behaved rudely to them, but the girl was not bothered by the rudeness, because she believed the stranger could be going through something. 

I was surprised that she had that much empathy for a stranger, and I wanted to know who this girl was. The eating area was poorly lit, so I could only make out the guy’s face, not the girl’s. 

The next day, I decided to call the number my friend gave me. The voice seemed familiar, and she asked if we could meet at mammy market. Lo and behold, it was Opeyemi, and I realised it was the voice of the girl from the previous night. 

Opeyemi: When we were eating that night, I noticed a guy in a hoodie sitting opposite us and thought, “Who is this mysterious guy?” The next day, I went to meet the Taraba corper my friend connected me to, and I discovered it was Joshua, the mysterious guy from the night before.

How did things progress from there?

Opeyemi: We became friends. We did everything together, went everywhere together. The more we saw of each other, the closer we became. On the parade ground, I would sneak into his line so we could gist together. Every social night, we sat next to each other, gisting.

At one point, people began to refer to us as a camp couple, and they said that the relationship would end after NYSC camp. I understand why they said that: the closeness was a lot. To them, it was a romantic relationship, but to us, it was simply a close-knit friendship.

Joshua: NYSC tried to separate this friendship sha. When we got our posting letters after camp ended, we were posted to different locations in Taraba, about six hours apart. I redeployed to Abuja, but she stayed in Jalingo.

Budding romance in the mud.

Opeyemi: I’ll be honest, when I met Joshua, I liked him and was attracted to him, but we couldn’t date because he was not a believer. During the course of our friendship though, he gave his life to Christ and became a believer, and we were on the same Bible plan. This made our friendship even tighter.

Joshua: At the time we met, I was addicted to a lot of things: cocaine, weed, porn. In camp, I didn’t know where to get cocaine or weed, and my phone spoilt too, so I could not access my porn stash. I was suffering withdrawal symptoms, but whenever I was with Opeyemi, I didn’t feel the urge. I enjoyed being with her and would often seek her out. Yes, I liked her, but I knew nothing could happen with us. She had her life together while mine was a big mess. 

Talking to her revealed a lot about her relationship with God, her upbringing and how her faith shapes her outlook on things. For example, she is firmly against premarital sex. Back then, I didn’t subscribe to that, so even though we spoke a lot and were really close, we were two different people. 

What changed?

Joshua: Spending time with her. I saw her life, and it was an indication of how wonderful mine could be too. I decided to give my life to Christ. I wanted the peace she had.

Opeyemi: He told me he was struggling with some things but didn’t go into details. After camp, he asked me to be his girlfriend, but I said no. Later, when he became a believer, he told me everything. 

Joshua: It came as a shock to me, but I wasn’t saved then and was battling with a lot, so her refusal was really the right decision. After I got saved, I decided I wasn’t going to be in a relationship with anyone because I didn’t think anyone could love me and accept me the way Christ did.

One day, while praying, I got a vision of me and Ope starting a ministry. In that vision, we were married. But even though this vision had been shown to me and I felt something for her, I did not receive the leading to ask her out or tell her any of the things I was shown. But I was sure that we would end up together. So sure, that I informed my family and started a Pinterest board, all without even asking her out.

When did the official asking out happen?

Opeyemi: He tried again, and this time, I said yes. The first time he asked, I said no because he was not a believer. But beyond that, I was in a relationship. When he asked me out the second time, he was saved, and my previous relationship had hit the rocks. We had too many issues, and each time I prayed about it, I was left with a strong conviction to break things off with the guy.

After I ended things, I told Joshua I needed a month off talking to him so I could clear my head and focus instead of just hopping into another relationship. I also needed time to pray about it.

One day, we were chatting and he asked me if I spoke in tongues. I did not, so he said he would come visit me on my birthday to pray with me so I could begin speaking in tongues. I had read books, listened to sermons, and all, but I still could not speak in tongues. When he said that, I went to God and said, “If this guy is really my husband, when he comes visiting and we pray together, let me begin to speak in tongues. That’s the sign that I want.”  

When he showed up, we went to the mountain together, took pictures and prayed together. During that prayer, I began to speak in tongues. That was the final convincing sign I needed, so I said yes to his proposal.

How long did it take you to move from friendship into a relationship?

Opeyemi: About nine months.

Joshua: And it took us a year and three months to move from a relationship into marriage. We got married the exact same month and day we met in camp.

Aww. How does it feel to be married?

Joshua: It has been very awesome. While we were dating, we tried to imagine what married life would look like and tried to set our expectations. But we’ve  come to realise that we didn’t even scratch the surface of those expectations. I am grateful for the strong, premarital counselling we had. We have come to understand each other, grow in love and yes, the sex is amazing. I’m really glad we waited. Waiting helped us build what was needed for passionate sex to thrive: trust, communication and a strong irreversible publicly-proclaimed committment. 

I’m glad to wake up next to Opeyemi every morning. It is a blessing to have that friend who knows me well and is in my corner. My personal person. Before we got married, I wanted to always be with her, and now that we are a couple, I am still eager to be with her. She’s like a satisfying spring of water. She refreshes me and I am content. Whenever I’m out, I’m always rushing home to be with her.

Opeyemi: I enjoy being married. There’s this glow that comes with marriage, especially when the marriage brings you peace. We were looking through our throwback photos a while back, and we could easily see how much change we’ve undergone. We look better and are better. I am particularly happy to be with Joshua everyday. It’s like living with my best friend. There’s something deeply satisfying and romantic about having someone I can talk to all the time, someone who loves me, cherishes me, someone I can cook for, someone who takes care of me. I always want to share all my experiences with him, even the most mundane experiences. 

Sharing these bits of my life with him makes everything better, more interesting. Being married to him makes me think of marriage as an extension of a life-long friendship where you get to live with your best friend, have sex with them, enjoy an even deeper level of intimacy. There simply is no word to describe this bliss.

How long have you been married for?

Joshua: By November, we would have been married for three years.

Opeyemi: And we are blessed with a beautiful baby girl.

Aww. And how are you finding that? 

Opeyemi: When we got married, we planned to wait for a year before having a baby. We were still trying to figure out what contraceptive worked for us and all when, about two months into the marriage, I discovered I was pregnant. I was devastated. 

I wanted a baby at a later time. I was doing my masters in Jos then, and Joshua was in Abuja, and I didn’t want to have to travel with the burden of a child. I had also told all my friends that I would wait for one year, and so when it happened, I felt ashamed that my people would laugh at me for making mouth and doing the opposite.

Also, our finances weren’t where we wanted it to be. We didn’t have a car for instance  There were many things that ought to be in place that weren’t, and this was a real source of concern for us. We prayed and God came through: everything we needed for a child came in its own time. One thing God told me was that it takes nine months to prepare for a child. In those nine months, we prepared ourselves, and by the time she came, we were ready. Now she’s here, we love her and have no regrets. She arrived just at the right time.

Joshua: Being parents has been a blessing. It’s stressful, but a blessing nonetheless. Children always want to end their own lives. Leave them alone one moment, and they are already exploring. 

I have come to realise that a child needs balanced parenting, so I always make sure to do my part. I bathe her, feed her, dress her up. I make sure I am an active part of her life. Being parents with Ope has been a blessing. Our girl is a perfect blend of Ope and I, and I love her so much.

Opeyemi: Oh yes, it is stressful. There are times I want to sleep that I cannot, times we want to be alone but cannot because our daughter needs us. But if I had to choose between being parents and not being parents, I would choose being parents a hundred times over.

One thing I have learned is not to make her the centre of our marriage. Joshua and I  try to make time for each other. One way we do this is by putting her to sleep early so that we can spend time together. We also ensure she takes a nap in the afternoon so we can get work done. Sometimes, we drop her off with family so we can spend time together, alone. In those times, we miss her. 

In parenting, you don’t know if you are doing your best or not, you just do the best you can and hope it turns out well. That’s a lesson I keep learning everyday.

What do you love most about each other?

Joshua: Her bumbum.

Opeyemi: Eh God.

Joshua: LMAO I really love your butt though. Okay, let me be serious. I love how thoughtful she is. Last week, she had a cake class where she would leave home at 7 a.m. and return around 11, 12 p.m. Regardless of that, she made my favourite goat meat stew and it showed me just how much she had me in mind. 

It’s beautiful to have somebody who thinks of you and thinks of ways to make life easier and more enjoyable for you.

Opeyemi: I love how committed Joshua is to loving me, and how intentional and committed he is to putting our family first. I love the little ways he expresses love to me: the random hugs, the kisses, the—

Joshua: Bumbum grabs.

Opeyemi: I didn’t say that, LMAO. I love how he’s a good father to our daughter, how he goes out of his way and constantly ensures he puts me first. He understands my love language: gifting, and he goes out of his way to make sure he speaks this language, even with the smallest gifts.

Do you ever fight?

Opeyemi: Before we got married, we had one fight. I went shopping and had extra cash left, so I spent it on clothes for both of us. He thought it could have been channelled into something else. 

After that fight happened, we spoke about the misunderstanding and we had to find a system to turn misunderstandings like these into ways to further understand each other.  We had to see things from each other’s perspectives and prioritise each other. 

Joshua: During premarital counselling too, we had a session about creating systems for conflict resolutions. We are always determined to keep the peace and not fight. We recognise how each other might have felt during a misunderstanding and acknowledge the part we played in making that feeling happen. Instead of gaslighting, we validate each feeling, apologise and learn to do better so we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Is there anything you would like to change about each other?

Opeyemi: I don’t like how Joshua drops his face cap anywhere he sees. I am tired of finding face caps everywhere. I want to see a change, please. Also, at first, he didn’t really take note of my love language. He didn’t buy me gifts during one of my birthdays and I didn’t like it, but I have seen progress in that regard. Right now, he’s actively planning my birthday.

Joshua: I’m changing jor. I would love Opeyemi to keep to time. It’s almost like time is a foreign concept to this woman. But I have come to understand that everything that delays her — makeup, dressing, etc. — is for the sole purpose of looking good, so who am I to stop God’s grace and beauty from shining?

Also, my primary love language is PDA and she didn’t buy into that at first. But we spoke about it, and now she’s changed and I’m grateful for that.

What’s the best thing about being married to each other?

Joshua: It would be the fact that I have someone who is actively invested in my progress. I had a difficult time last year, but she encouraged me to switch careers, and I got a lot of confidence from her. That decision and now, paying off immensely now. I like that she paid attention to me so much that she discovered something about me that I didn’t know about myself. That is the best thing.

Opeyemi: I think it would be having a best friend; someone who supports me in my business, roots for me, encourages me, cheers me on. He gives a voice to what I am feeling and properly articulates it even when I am unable to. When I am apart from him, life feels so boring and uninteresting. 

How would you rate the relationship?

Opeyemi: 9. I know we have a great relationship. We are intentional about making our relationship better by having conversations, going on dates. We are going on a retreat next month, away from our daughter, so we can talk about things and build more intimacy.

Joshua: Yes, it’s a 9. We love each other and are content with our union, but there’s always room for improvement. 

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