Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
How did you two meet?
Paul: We met through a girl I was trying to get with in 2018. I met her at a friend’s party. I actually met two of them together, but I noticed her friend first. I still don’t know why.
Funmi: I don’t remember meeting him on that day to be fair. I just know that my friend told me she was seriously talking to someone she met at one party we went to together. I got to know him when they started hanging out. They were in the talking stage for forever, but it eventually didn’t work out.
Paul: We drifted apart, and she started dating someone else. By then, I was on talking terms with Funmi. I’m not sure how one thing led to another, but it did.
When did you realise you liked each other?
Funmi: When I started smiling stupidly anytime he called and while we spoke. We would have these hours-long calls at night, and I gladly gave up my sleep for them, which was unprecedented.
Paul: I can’t pinpoint exactly when.
I just knew I wanted to spend more and more time with her, and I always wanted to hear her voice. We bonded over work wahala and the pressures of being first-borns. I also admired the work she was doing at her company, so we’d talk about ways I could be involved in some of their projects and how the company I worked for could partner.
We also exchanged ideas for our personal projects and advised each other on them. She was a great support system. I think we were trying to be friends when we realised there was more to our relationship.
Funmi: He asked me out about a month later, and I immediately said yes because I didn’t think anything was wrong there.
Paul: I still don’t think we did anything wrong, but you know how as humans we like to complicate things.
What happened exactly?
Funmi: The friend he originally wanted to date started making trouble the moment she found out we were together. According to her, they were exes and I was being a bad friend. I was shocked by her behaviour because they never even dated.
Paul: She led me on, friend-zoned me, then turned around to be angry I moved on because it was with someone she knew.
Funmi: We thought it was a small thing until she started badmouthing us to everyone, even my siblings. Her story became that I stole her boyfriend. I actually lost some friends because of this drama. When the embarrassment became too much to bear, we decided to separate.
My mum called me aside to advise me that love wasn’t worth my good name. So I told him I really liked him, but maybe we should give it a break and then try again when things cleared up a bit. This was in February 2019, shortly after Valentine’s Day.
Paul: I didn’t think we needed to break up. As far as I was concerned, we just needed to avoid the girl. But according to her, they were childhood friends and there were many people involved, including her family. So I respected her wishes and moved on.
I dated someone else for a while too.
Funmi: I was heartbroken for like a year and eventually fought with the girl for good. We still don’t speak today.
How did you find your way back together?
Paul: As of March 2019, for some reason, we stopped talking completely. I think she even blocked me on WhatsApp and IG because I stopped seeing her stories and statuses. I started planning to japa in September 2019, but talk of COVID crept in from December and by March, we all know what happened.
We chatted a little during the lockdown in April, but in two months, that had fizzled out again.
Funmi: The pandemic had me feeling lonely and depressed, coupled with the anxiety of job insecurity, and I just isolated myself at home. I didn’t really talk to anyone besides my parents who I still lived with at the time. I don’t know how I survived that period.
Paul: Fast forward to January 2021, and I finally got out of Nigeria to Northampton for school.
Funmi: I moved to Milton Keyes on a family member visa in March.
My parents aren’t married, and my mum has lived there for almost 20 years. As far back as 2012/13, I reached out and begged her to let me join her. It didn’t work out until 2021.
Then I got admission to the University of Northampton completely by coincidence. I ended up meeting Paul at a training centre for finance jobs somewhere in town. It was the craziest thing.
Did you immediately pick up the relationship from where it left off?
Paul: I wouldn’t say “immediately”. It was gradual.
But I think from the moment we saw each other in the same town in the UK for the same reason, a part of us knew we were going to continue from where we stopped. I remember seeing her and just smiling after the initial shock. I thought she stalked me all the way there.
Funmi: See your head as if I hadn’t moved on until God decided to shove you into my life once again.
Paul: It definitely felt good to see her again in a space where we felt free to do as we liked within the constraints of British bills. It felt like a slap on the face of the devil who tried to keep us apart. We started seeing each other every day at the training centre, then once in a blue moon, we’d run into each other on campus.
She was studying full-time, but I was part-time, so I had more allowance to take on jobs. I could afford the occasional dates and gifts, and she appreciated it all the more because she didn’t have as much liquid cash.
Funmi: In other words, I was a broke bitch who was easy to impress.
Paul: During the first holiday, we got jobs as carers in the same hospital and did our bus runs together. It felt so much like we were these boring married middle-aged couple, but for some reason, it was exciting.
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What have the last two years been like together?
Funmi: I graduated first and got a semi-good job shortly after, so the tables turned. I was the one taking us out throughout last year.
Paul: Thank God I sowed the seed the year before.
Now, we’ve both graduated, and the hustle for good white-collar jobs is on. In the meantime, we have a couple of shifts between us and don’t have as much time to think about romance.
One thing is for sure though, we’re seriously discussing the future, and marriage is something we’ve spent the last several months planning towards.
Funmi: We’d like to move in together to save on rent, but that’s not something I’m ready to do before taking our commitment to the next level, especially in a place like England where people move in together all the time. I don’t want us to do it and get used to it and then never get married. In Nigeria, people will keep reminding us say we never marry o.
Right now, we do our best to support each other, especially through career-related decisions.
We also try to make each other’s birthdays memorable.
Paul: We either have a small get-together with our friends and co-workers in my apartment — it’s bigger — or an intimate dinner date at the nicest restaurant we find during the year — that we can afford. One of these two is a must.
Funmi: We’ve also been planning to move to London. We’re saving towards that, and it will tie into our marriage plans.
Was there an actual marriage proposal?
Paul: Honestly, it was more like a leading conversation that happened over time. I always imagined I would be romantic about asking my future wife to marry me, but the way it happened for us was special and heartwarming in its own way.
Funmi: It was romantic too. Romance doesn’t have to be performative or over the top. Ours was real and sincere and intimate, and I loved every second of us talking about how much we want to spend the rest of our lives together.
I only wish I could’ve recorded the sound bites or kept a hidden camera or something.
Paul: But who knows, maybe I’ll still orchestrate a grand proposal just for posterity’s sake — the British tax system be merciful.
Funmi: What then do we call this stage we’re in? We’re not married, not engaged, but we know we’ll marry soon, so are we still boyfriend and girlfriend?
I believe it’s called “partners”.
Have you had a major fight yet?
Paul: What do you mean? When did we fight?
Funmi: We’ve fought sha. But I don’t even remember why.
Paul: We have arguments and differences. I’d never call them “fights” because we’re never really angry or violent.
Funmi: It’s just times when we want different things, and we’re not immediately ready to compromise, at least, not until after we’ve aired our point or justifications. We never leave these fights thinking differently about each other.
Most times, I can’t wait to just forgive him so I can cuddle after a long shift.
Paul: Maybe when we actually start living together, the story will be different. But I hope not.
Do you ever think about the girl who separated you the first time, and how different things could’ve been?
Paul: She comes up once in a while, and we just laugh.
Funmi: There’s no point rehashing the past or thinking about what could’ve been. But that episode has made for a good anecdote at social gatherings. Always breaks the ice when we’re out together.
Paul: I keep thinking we’ll run into her on social media one day, but she seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth.
Funmi: She’ll be fine, dear.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your Love Life?
Paul: 8. But only because I wish we had more time to spend together.
Funmi: Oh wow. Same. Work dey choke.
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