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Love Life: We Got Married So We Can Be Gay in Peace

Love Life: We Got Married So We Can Be Gay in Peace

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

What’s your earliest memory of each other?

Yemi: We met at Bogobiri House in 2015. 

A friend invited me to his friend’s live music performance, and I went because I was trying to get out more and expand my circle. I’d just transitioned from a highly demanding job to a more laid-back role, and it felt like I could finally breathe and be human. I think that outing was my first since I switched jobs, so I probably behaved like someone who was just let out of jail.

Anyway, at some point, this fine babe walked in with two or three of her friends, all girls. I just found myself staring at her as she walked by and sat by the bar during the show. I’d liked guys for a long time at that point, but I noticed her because she just had an aura. I knew I wanted to get to know her.

Joy: I tagged along with my friends from another event. From Bogobiri, we were supposed to go somewhere again. But then, when we wanted to leave like two hours later, he walked up to us to say hi. I thought he looked good so when he asked to exchange numbers, I gave him my number. 

He ended up coming with us and one of his friends to our next destination – a club. It was a Saturday night. We all hung out for a while then figured out how we would get home together. I ended up in the same cab as him, as the two people who didn’t have cars. He dropped off first and made me swear I’d text him when I was home and safe. So I did. 

And that’s how the whole thing started.

What started exactly?

Joy: We would text and hang out all the time. Lunch today, drinks tomorrow, company events, sometimes. Most times, his and my friends would be there too, but we both knew we were getting close to each other. 

I had a girlfriend at the time. We were pretty secretive about our relationship, as you can imagine. But we were still serious about each other until she decided to marry a man and we became more like a complicated situation. When it was five months into my new friendship with Yemi, I realised I was really lonely and wanted to be in something that felt secure, something I could be open about even if it wasn’t completely real. 

So I tried to tease him into asking me out.

Yemi: I noticed she was coming on to me, but I didn’t want to reveal anything to her yet. I don’t know exactly why I asked her to be my girlfriend till today. Maybe a part of me just wanted to eat my cake and have it. I wanted to be close to her. I liked her laidback personality, and this woman is a beaut. Are you seeing her? But I also didn’t want her to know I was gay. I know that sounds stupid.

Not really. I’m curious how the relationship progressed considering your conflicting sexualities

Joy: We didn’t get into it right away. 

First, we talked for about two to three months, and I do think we have such a strong emotional connection. You know how people say you can cheat just by offering yourself emotionally to people besides your partner or family members? I know what they mean. He really does feel like my soulmate despite my lack of interest in being intimate with him.

Yemi: We’re the best of friends. Our talking stage was one of the few great periods of my life, especially as I was just coming into having a social life at the time. We’d dissect things about each other. It was a period of soul-searching for me. She helped me discover what my preferences were. What was my favourite food or colour or kind of ambiance? She made me figure those things out.

Joy: I found it fascinating that he was just figuring out simple things like that about himself. It felt like he was finding himself through our discussions, and I was so happy to be a part of that. I knew what it was like to work at an intense, cut-throat job that takes like five years of your life without you even noticing. 

I think, after that, we started to really need those conversations and verbal support from each other. I liked how open he was to listening to my thoughts and things I was happy or frustrated about without feeling like he needed to advise me or instruct me on the “right” decisions to make. 

When did things get serious between you two?

Joy: We pretty much just started having more private outings. We’d go on dates just to talk more in person and have a good time alone together. But during this time, I did notice that he never tried to touch me or steal a kiss like guys tried to do in the past — even guys I wasn’t trying to get into a relationship with. I loved that he respected boundaries. Little did I know the real reason why.

Yemi: I was having a good time enjoying her company, but also debating in my head when I should come clean. I didn’t want her to run just yet. Around that time, I was sleeping with this guy I liked, but I still felt very lonely. On the other hand, I felt like I was cheating on two counts. Still, I went on with it because her company just made me happy. 

Joy: Beyond the dates, he’d send me money all the time, so I started putting in effort to get him elaborate gifts on special occasions. We got to know each other’s parents — and they were all relieved that we weren’t gay — and we hadn’t even kissed at this point. I didn’t bring it up because I was completely okay with that.

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Please, at what point did the truth come out?

Yemi: It was getting to a year since we became more committed to each other, and we were talking more than ever, sharing some really sensitive details about our lives and past. 

When I told her about it, it came so naturally. It was just time. I was like “I love you, but romantically, I like men.” I know it’s crazy, but because of the conversation we were having when it came out, I didn’t expect her to be shocked or angry at all. And she wasn’t. She was just like “Oh. I saw that coming.” And that’s when I knew she was my best friend. Just the tone and the look on her face. I knew she got me.

Joy: I smiled at him. But I didn’t tell him my part until much later. We continued like nothing had changed. We were even closer than ever. We were in each other’s flats all the time. We went everywhere together, except maybe work.

Why didn’t you just tell right away? 

Joy: I didn’t want to overdo it with the revelations. I also wanted his own to land first. I had to process what that meant to our relationship, how lucky we actually were — two gays of opposite genders getting along so well. I didn’t want to potentially ruin that yet.

Yemi: Don’t mind her. She wanted to drag out my internal torture just a bit longer.

Joy: I was also spinning a plan together that I wanted to give myself time to sell to him.

Which was?

Joy: We could properly commit and give ourselves the freedom to be who we really were. I mean, what were the chances that we, gay millennials, would ever have the chance to be with and marry people we were actually attracted to? 

I always tell people I’ve been cursed with an eternally broken heart. You think the streets are tough for you as a straight person? Try dating when everyone involved knows they don’t have to commit because they legally can’t. I thought, since we were in the same boat and understood each other so well, we could be each other’s family then get romance and sex elsewhere. 

It’s worked out well for us so far.

Yemi: It’s not the most ideal situation, but she’s right, it works. I know I waited a year to tell her the truth about me, but I would’ve been miserable if I ended up having to lie to someone for real just because I wanted to get married and have a home. So many Nigerians do that, but I didn’t want to be forced to be that guy. I’m glad I met Joy.

Joy, how did you eventually own up and reveal your plan?

Joy: It took a couple of months. 

It was a week to my birthday and we were making plans for a picnic with a few of our friends. I said I would’ve preferred it if it was just the two of us, and he frowned just a little bit. Then he said he’d love that too, but he hoped he wasn’t leading me on. When he said, “I can’t really offer you much beyond companionship”, my heart broke because I knew I wanted him in my life forever. I absolutely wanted the companionship he thought wasn’t a big deal.

Yemi: Meanwhile, I was beating myself up about everything.

Joy: I just started crying, and I saw the panic in his face. He thought I was heartbroken for the wrong reasons. But I couldn’t say anything because I was crying too hard. He started apologising, saying he’d step back and leave me alone if that’s what I wanted. I had to force the words out of my mouth that that was the last thing I wanted. When I calmed down, I told him I was a lesbian and I was sorry I didn’t tell him sooner. 

He actually said he didn’t believe me.

Yemi: I honestly didn’t. I thought she was pulling my legs or just trying to make me feel better. For a slim second, I even thought she made it up just because she liked me so much that she didn’t want me to leave.

Joy: But why are you so conceited?

Why does it feel like you proposed to each other right after this episode?

Yemi: Not exactly. But she did tell me we could stay committed so we could both be gay in peace. While it felt conniving in a way, it also sounded like the answer to all my relationship problems.

Joy: My birthday came and went, and we basically stayed strong. I was at an age when everyone you know is married with two kids and people start asking you when your own will come. So, in my head, I was like let’s just do it. I was that sure I wanted to be committed to him. But at the same time, I wasn’t in a hurry. I wasn’t desperate for it. I was happy and independent, my career was going well and good enough money was coming in.

Yemi: It wasn’t until 2019, almost three years after we’d opened our closet to each other, that we started talking seriously about what our future together would look like. We’d both had steady sleeping partners for a while. It was time to be sure we were still on the same page. When she promised me she was, I went and got a ring and proposed to her over dinner at my place — I cooked!

Joy: The food was great; fried yam and stir-fry sauce. I debated telling him no at first. But I couldn’t do it. I said yes immediately, and we fell asleep on the couch after finishing a bottle of red wine between us. I called my mum first thing in the morning.

How was the wedding? Did you feel anyhow about the real situation of things as your families fussed over you?

Joy: They didn’t really fuss over us. My parents had given away three daughters at that point. They’d long given up on me. But yes, I wanted to tell my aunties that I was really a lesbian and this was all a cover, just to rile them up. Obviously, nothing would’ve been worth all the drama that would’ve caused.

Yemi: It was during COVID, so it was a quiet wedding. Most of my friends, the groomsmen, were queer. So besides maybe the elders in my family, I wasn’t really deceiving anyone. And for the elders, don’t we all have to deceive them over one thing or the other because they refuse to modernise their minds? 

I won’t say I didn’t feel anyhow, but the fact that I knew Joy wasn’t in the dark on anything, and she actually initiated the idea, made me at peace. 

Joy: At the end of the day, we really do love each other and are best of friends. It might be platonic, but I believe it’s just as powerful as the romantic version.

And what’s married life like while hiding your sexuality from the world?

Joy: There’s been drama, but not too much. Thankfully, our society doesn’t expect PDAs anyway, so we’re good.

Yemi: It’s been just as dramatic as any other marriage can be. We have squabbles over the littlest things: toothbrushes, who should take out the trash, what to watch on TV. Oh, and figuring out our plan for kids was one long drama that brought in most of our family.

Joy: Shockingly, we didn’t have a broad enough conversation about children before the wedding. We knew we wouldn’t be having sex, but we somehow also wanted kids. There were the IVF or surrogacy options, but we didn’t have that kind of money at first, especially after paying for the rent and renovation of our new three-bedroom flat.

Yemi: So when, a year into our marriage, my mother started bringing up kids, we felt so sheepish. It came down to having sex just for procreation.

Joy: I couldn’t do it. I absolutely didn’t want to do it. In fact, I was so convinced it would ruin us and everything we’d built because I knew it would be an unpleasant experience for both of us. This hung over our heads for months, like it was the biggest life-changing decision of our lives.

Yemi: It was, in a way. 

In the end, we decided to save up for a couple of months for the IVF. But then, it failed three whole times. We had a daughter in July 2023, and I like to ring it in her ears that we went bankrupt just to have her.

What about the “extra-marital” affairs? How do you navigate them within your marriage?

Yemi: You mean, the people we actually have sex with? It’s been strangely easy to manage so far. I was sure that was what would strain our marriage and have us ready to throw hands, but no. My current partner loves Joy and is in our home helping with our daughter a couple of nights a week. It might seem weird or complicated, but it really isn’t. Joy hasn’t quite had a steady partner in some time though.

Joy: No. For now, I’m okay with being purely maternal and a great companion. 

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

Yemi: 10/10

Joy: Let’s call a spade a spade, please.

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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