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

What’s your earliest memory of each other?

Lola: We met at work in 2017. My former company hired him to do some photography work for three months. The first day he came in and I saw him, I knew I had a crush. It was his eyes. They were so pretty, but he never looked directly at anyone.

Dennis: I noticed her right away. I passed by her cubicle, and she was so focused on her computer, typing God knows what. She’s the fastest typer I know.

Did you get to talk on that first day?

Dennis: Not really. Their CEO introduced me to everyone, including her. Then I went to my corner to figure out what they wanted me to do.

Lola: We didn’t speak until a few days later when we directly worked on a project.

And then, you fell in love?

Lola: No. We didn’t date until after he broke off the contract barely a month in and left our company.

What do you mean “left”?

Dennis: That “project” wasn’t part of the specific deliverables in my contract. Because I didn’t accept to take on tasks outside of the contract, the CEO started overcriticising the work I did. Everything was suddenly rubbish, and it was seriously affecting my anxiety.

Lola: When I noticed he was having issues with our usually mild-mannered CEO, I texted him just to check-in. 

He told me when he started considering leaving, and we talked about his anxiety. However, at the time, I didn’t understand that he meant depression.

When did you figure it out?

Lola: Shortly before we became official.

Dennis: But first, we were friends for a while. She became part of my support system. She’d always check in, even when she was dating some other guy.

Were you considering dating her instead, Dennis?

Dennis: Yes. Who wouldn’t? 

But I felt she was too good for me. I thought she was only reaching out all the time out of pity. She’s really nice like that.

Lola: Men can be idiots when they want to be sha.

How did you eventually get together?

Lola: I had to tell him I liked him, really liked him.

This was mid-2018 after an almost one-year relationship crashed because I wasn’t invested. I liked the guy but not enough to move as fast as he wanted. He wanted us to move in together, to get married at least a year later and all that. I didn’t think I liked him enough for all that. When he noticed I wasn’t invested the way he wanted, he left, and I moved to Dennis.

Dennis: I was shocked when she told me she liked me a lot. It was over the phone, but I believed her because her voice sounded so sincere. I just started crying.

Lola: I listened to him sob over the phone and didn’t even realise when tears started streaming down my eyes.

I think there and then, I should’ve known I was in for a rollercoaster.

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Tell me all about it

Lola: He started texting me a lot, asking what I liked and didn’t like. He was so sweet and poetic in his texts. You could sense that strong aim to please, and I was completely taken by it, trying to answer as openly as possible.

Dennis: The texts were mostly anxiety-driven. I wanted to take her out, and I wanted to do it perfectly. So I had to know precisely the type of food and ambience she liked.

Lola: That first date was nice even though we weren’t exactly dating yet. Afterwards, we didn’t meet much, but we’d text almost 24/7 with phone calls in between. 

Then I noticed him withdraw. After some months, the texts became less frequent to the point when I was almost begging him to text me.

Dennis: My mum died after a long illness just before Christmas of 2018, so…

I’m so sorry

Lola: He didn’t tell me that until shortly after New Year 2019. By then, I was frustrated by him. When I heard this, my feelings made a U-turn, and I was heartbroken for him. I knew he was really close to his mum.

Dennis: I felt bad for pushing her away during this time, but I really couldn’t help it. After recovering, I asked her to be my girlfriend, fully expecting her to say no.

Lola: But I said yes.

And for that year, dating meant sharing Ubers to our offices. He lived in Egbeda, I lived in Ikeja, and we both worked on the island, so he’d hail a cab, and then pick me up on the way. We’d mostly make out in the back seat until we entered traffic and I was too shy to continue.

That sounds nice

Lola: That was our life until COVID came and we all had to stay indoors. He lost most of his photography and content gigs and my salary was slashed in half. He called me one morning during lockdown and broke up with me.

Like a phone call?

Dennis: I was in a dark place and didn’t want to have to keep calling or texting through all that. It was really hard for me to do. But I didn’t want her going through emotional stress on top of how the pandemic was most likely already affecting her.

Lola: He didn’t say all this. He just said, “Let’s break up.” I was confused, but he was adamant, and you could even hear the irritation in his voice. No explanation; he just broke up with me and that was it.

Behold our Valentine Special.
We brought back three couples we interviewed in 2019 to share how their relationships have evolved in the last five years.
This is the first episode

And you got back after that how?

Lola: In October 2020, he called me crying.

Dennis: I missed her too much and hated myself for making us separate. A part of me thought she’d call or text to change my mind. I think by the day after I broke things off, I’d changed my mind. 

She never called.

Lola: Why didn’t you call?

So he called you crying, and then what?

Lola: I was confused. I had to drag my sisters into it, and of course, they advised me not to take him back.

I didn’t listen.

Dennis: I kept calling her to apologise and explain myself. I came clean about my depression and how I was already seeing therapists.

Lola, how did you feel about this revelation?

Lola: I’d already figured out the depression bit when we used to text a lot before his mum passed. He’d constantly question himself and his whole existence. Sometimes, it felt like self-awareness and an urge to be a good person. Other times, it was scary, like he didn’t like himself at all. 

This time around, maybe because I was older, I wondered if I really wanted to be involved in that. But I like him a lot, so I convinced myself I couldn’t just leave him because he was going through things.

Dennis: We didn’t get back together until early December. But then, Christmas was a mess because I was broke AF after COVID, so we didn’t have a decent meetup until around March 2021. In July, we went to Ghana together.

Lola: We were so happy during this period. It was a huge high for him. But by September, he was low again. And I physically experienced his depression for the first time.

What happened?

Lola: Literally, nothing. He could hardly get out of bed in the morning, let alone work or talk to me. We were pretty serious at this point, so I’d started staying over at his place a couple of weeks at a time. Omo, I had to move back to my father’s house at a point o.

Dennis: I was ashamed for her to see me like that. So her leaving was better for me in a way. 

We were so happy together that year that I was sure I wouldn’t be depressed for a long time, but I guess my mental health didn’t respect my actual emotions.

How did this affect your relationship?

Dennis: She stopped taking my calls for some weeks and when she did, she’d ask me if I was feeling better and that was it. I respected her need for space.

Lola: I was confused. I knew what I saw — the inactivity, the lack of concern or emotion — was the depression. But it also made me a bit insecure. What if it was me? What if he was tired of having me around and couldn’t say it?

Dennis: Around November, I went to her place and we talked about it. I told her what my therapist told me about managing my important relationships, how I wanted to do everything within me to make us work.

Lola, I’m curious about how you processed this

Lola: I had to start therapy myself and that helped me personally. It pushed me to ask myself questions and to put myself and my health first before thinking about my feelings for him. 2022 was great for us. It was a lot healthier because I understood him and I understood myself better.

In 2023, we had to take breaks twice. But 2023 was also shege year, so I’m not so worried about it.

Have you guys thought about what the future might look like?

Dennis: A lot. And there’s a lot of uncertainty. But I know I love her, and I’d be lucky to have her with me forever. 

Lola: It’s crazy that we talk about having kids more than we talk about a wedding, but I guess it’s because neither of us is very traditional.

Do you want to have kids?

Lola: Yes, definitely.

Then there’s my mum — who loves him like the son she never had, by the way — who’s always asking when he’ll “do the right thing”. Of course, she doesn’t know about the depression. Until we figure that out, we’re not in a hurry.

Dennis: Sometime in 2023, we started taking joint therapy, and that has helped a whole lot.

Lola: Honestly, I’d recommend it even to couples who feel confident about both their mental health and their relationship.

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

Lola: Hmm. 7? 7.5? We’ve been so intentional with making things work. But I get afraid sometimes.

Dennis: 7.5. I feel lucky to have her.

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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