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

What’s your earliest memory of each other?

Daniel: No particular memory sticks to mind. 

We attended the same family church for as long as I can remember. Both our parents were workers. When my family first joined the church, I remember thinking she was such a proper Christian kid.

Sam: I must’ve been about eight years old when he started attending our church. He was the rebellious type. My first memory of him was when he failed to memorise some Bible passages and couldn’t recite them when our Sunday school teacher asked him to. He wasn’t even sorry. 

I’m not sure how we became friends, but we eventually did by the time I was 15. I think it was natural because we were around the same age and saw each other at least three days a week. 

Daniel: Most of us in the same age group just became close.

When did you realise you liked each other?

Daniel: It was years after that, in 2014. We were both in uni and had stopped attending that church as regularly. We kept in contact mostly through Facebook and BBM. During one of the holidays, we decided to meet up with two of our other church friends at a mall.

Sam: I remember seeing him for the first time in about three years and thinking he’d aged well. He was so much more mature-looking.

Daniel: We took each other a lot more seriously after that. 

We checked up on each other more, and I noticed our tone was much more earnest. Before then, we’d joke around and sometimes send silly jokes insulting each other. But after that first meeting, we were talking about school, plans for our careers, stuff like that. 

We didn’t date immediately, though.

Why not?

Daniel: It just didn’t occur to us yet.

Sam: But then, he came to celebrate with me right after my convocation in 2017. He’d graduated the year before, and my school was in a different state from where we lived. He took the three-to-four-hour road trip to come visit me. I was touched.

Daniel: I still thought of her as a friend at that time, but a very good, important friend.

Sam: He’s like that in general. He expresses his love for people by physically showing up for them no matter what. 

Anyway, after he returned home and the fanfare was over, I sat at home for a while, waiting for my NYSC posting and thinking about the few hours we spent together in school. I told God I wanted whoever I ended up with to be as kind and caring as he was.

How did you start dating?

Sam: We’ll get there. 

But first, the NYSC posting came, and I got to stay in PH. We hung out once in a while until he started dating someone else. I became casual friends with her, but when they broke things off barely five months in, I was surprised. I thought they really liked each other. 

I asked what happened, and he revealed to me for the first time that he had sickle cell. 

Daniel: Her parents advised her not to get too serious with me, and she thought there was no point delaying the inevitable. It wasn’t the first time, but maybe because I was an adult now, the experience hit me hard.

Sam: I was heartbroken on his behalf. 

That night, I researched everything there was to know about the disorder: how it affects people, treatments, cure, life expectancy. I felt so committed to him all of a sudden. The more I read, the more I understood why the girl ran, but it also made me angry at everyone and no one. 

I was confused because he seemed perfectly healthy to me. I kept thinking back to every time I’d hung out with him for any sign of weakness or pain I might’ve overlooked. I called him the next day and told him not to mind her, that I would be there for him. I was so dramatic.

How did he respond?

Sam: He laughed at me and then said, “Thank you.” I could tell he appreciated my support.

Daniel: I did. I had only Sam, my mum and one of my other friends to lean on at that time. Once we all got jobs, we got busy trying to survive, and I didn’t remember to be heartbroken anymore. 

Sam: By 2019, we only spoke over the phone maybe once a month. But the conversations were still good. We sent greetings, and sometimes, gifts on important days. 

Daniel: On my birthday, she ordered food to my office and still apologised that she couldn’t send me a proper gift. That year, apart from my brother in Germany, who sent me £70, no one had sent me anything. I think that’s when it dawned on me that she really cared about me.

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Did you care about her too?

Daniel: I cared about her a lot. But I never thought she cared about me half as much until that day. I don’t know why.

Some weeks later, I decided I wanted to ask her out, but it felt awkward because we’d been friends for so long. I kept telling myself, “Guy, you’ve been friend or even brother-zoned.”

Sam: Meanwhile, I was there wanting him to like me so badly. 

I’d dated two guys so far but always wound up comparing them to him. None of them were ever as gentle and good-hearted, not even this one guy I was very physically attracted to.

Daniel: I eventually worked up the courage to ask her out in July 2020. We met up, and she even kissed me. It was such a happy day.

What was dating like after almost a decade of friendship?

Sam: It’s been warm and familiar and comfortable. 

We get each other almost too much. We had the soft honeymoon period for up to two years, where it was just pure bliss. We’d go on dates, make out for long hours, agree with each other on everything and help each other solve small issues. We even formally met each other’s parents in the first year.

Daniel: Of course, they already knew each other from church, so they were very excited. They kept saying, “See the way the Lord works?” LMAO.

Sam, you’ve experienced his crises firsthand?

Sam: Oh yes. 

The first experience was scary. He was at home alone, and he called me first. My mind went blank. I dashed to his place without a single plan. But then, I got there, and he had everything figured out. He told me exactly what to do. That first time, we didn’t even have to go to the hospital, but it was quite unsettling to see him writhing in so much pain.

I cried so much after, and he was the one who still comforted me. Emotions are crazy, but the whole experience made me love him deeper. 

I thought his health would be the hardest part of our relationship. But everything was fine until I told my parents about it some months later.

Did they tell you to break up with him?

Sam: Yes.

Daniel: It came as a shock to me because I’d grown to believe they loved me. But I also understood they wanted a life free of pain and undue responsibility for their daughter.

Sam: Over time, my friends and siblings found out about it too. 

It got worse after we got engaged. I received a constant barrage of “Are you sure you can handle the stress long-term?” “You’ll regret this when you’re older and love has left your eyes” “You’re trying o. It can’t be me.” Someone even blatantly asked me, “Hope you know they die young?”

It’s amazing how shallow and callous human beings can be, particularly to the people closest to them.

Daniel: I’m used to being seen as my disease instead of the human that I am. It’s something people do all the time, knowingly or unknowingly. When you have something like sickle cell, diabetes or cancer, it becomes your complete identity.

Sam: People constantly judge our entire relationship based on it. My friends still greet me with, “How’s it going with him?” They have that look in their eyes that lets you know they’re talking about the sickle cell. They no longer care about other aspects of our relationship.

How do you both cope?

Sam: It’s been much better to manage since we moved to Manitoba, Canada, in 2023. We have peace of mind now.

Tell us about the other aspects of your relationship

Daniel: Things have gone smoothly for us. The alienation has drawn us so close to each other that we mostly only rely on ourselves.

Sam: We understand each other so well now because we’ve spent so much time talking things out and exchanging advice. We’ve spoken about how we want to build our family and raise our children — who’ll be safe from the sickle cell because I’m not a carrier. We could be decisive and strategic about our japa plans because of this as well.

Daniel: Now that we’re in Canada, we have no choice but to be best friends because there’s no one else to be friends with for now.

Sam, how do your parents feel about your relationship post-japa?

Sam: They’re sympathetic over the phone, but mostly, they’ve gotten over their aversion to it. We have many joint conversations between us and both parents. Everyone is at peace and civil.

Daniel: I still sense their lack of support. They haven’t warmed back up to me to the level we were at before they knew I had sickle cell. And sometimes, they make comments that allude to my weakness or lack of ability to take care of their daughter. Especially her dad.

Sam: I never sensed this until he brought it up this year. Now, I can sense it in everything they say to him. In all, we reduce our communication with Nigeria to the minimum.

So will the wedding happen in Canada?

Daniel: At first, that wasn’t the plan. But it’s becoming more and more likely so. We’ll still try to make sure both our parents and key family members can witness it and mark the day with us. I’m speaking with my dad about it.

Sam: TBH, we now regret not having a simple court wedding in Nigeria before leaving, at least, for documentation purposes here. That way, we wouldn’t even have had to stress about it now. But somehow somehow, we go run am.

Daniel: We’re already married in our hearts. Our only concern is legal.

Sam: We also can’t wait to start with the kids. But I don’t want that to happen until we’re legally married.

Have you had any major fights yet?

Daniel: Not really. 

When we first moved here, we were both quite cranky and had disagreements over the smallest things. But since one of our neighbours said it was a common reaction to the extreme cold after living in a hot environment all our lives, we’ve kind of calmed down.

Sam: Our relationship is a very soft, gentle one. When we have disagreements, we usually just talk it out. We’ve disagreed over what job opportunities to take, temperature levels — he loves the room to be chilly when he sleeps. 

Back in Nigeria, we could disagree over things like food. At first, he constantly ordered food for himself without ordering for me, and I used to be so annoyed by it. Nothing serious, though.

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

Sam: 9. Nothing’s perfect.

Daniel: I disagree, so 10.

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