Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
NK*, 26, and Sarah*, 26 dated for two years. Today on Love Life, they talk about how wanting different things led to their breakup, transitioning to best friends and getting an apartment together.
What is your earliest memory of each other?
NK: In 2018, I had just come into my queerness and I was looking to meet other queer people. My friend told me about a Whatsapp group run by Sarah. She called her name like I should know her. When I said I didn’t, she told me that she was a writer. I remember thinking Sarah sounded like someone who has their shit together. I googled her and read her work. I wanted to be prepared when I reached out to her. In April, my friend got her to add me to the group and one day, Sarah and I started talking.
Sarah: You know how rowdy Whatsapp groups can get. That day, people were shooting shots at each other and someone was keeping score of the shots. That person was NK. I wasn’t online at the time it was happening, but someone else tagged me to their messages. I laughed about it and said, “Let’s talk privately.”
Ouuu. What happened next?
Sarah: We’ve been talking every day from that day till now. Our conversations were easy. Within a few days, we went from texting to sexting.
NK: LOL. Sarah sent me a picture of herself in bed and I complimented her. I don’t remember what I said but she said, “Are you trying to sext me because I will shamelessly indulge you.” I said yes and we started sexting as often as we texted. I was more flirtatious than I had ever been. It was so intense.
Meanwhile, we hadn’t met. She was in Abuja and I was in Lagos, but it felt like we had seen each other with all the conversations, pictures and calls.
In May 2018, she said she was coming to Lagos for a meeting. By this time, we had been talking for a month. Coincidentally, her meeting happened to be where I worked at the time. I was nervous because I was worried that our connection might not be as intense in person.
Well, was it?
Sarah: It was. I surprised them. I told them I was running late even though I was already outside the building. Seeing them made me smile so much my cheeks hurt. They looked so good. We kept complimenting each other for the first few minutes.
NK: We had the office to ourselves. I was caught off guard, so I didn’t have anything to offer her. I told her I was going to give her the best cup of water she had ever drunk. I turned around to fill a cup with water from the dispenser and when I handed it to her, she said she wanted to kiss me.
Sarah: It was an awkward kiss because they didn’t seem ready and also I was nervous. LOL. After that, we went on a date and ended up spending the rest of the day together. Later, we went to a bar and made out in their restroom. It was so hot. We started making plans to have sex.
How did that go?
NK: I lived with my uncle and his family and so did she. We had to book a room at a shitty hotel but gosh, the sex was worth it — it was as dirty as the hotel. We saw each other a few more times before she went back to Abuja and had more sex. The day before she went back to Abuja, we hung out at a restaurant and talked about what we were doing with each other.
Sarah: It was easy for me to decide that I wanted to date NK, but I needed time to tie up some loose ends — I had been talking to other women, and I wanted to end things with them before going into a relationship. It took about a month.
NK: In June, she sent me a card, a handwritten note and a ring, asking me to be her partner. She mailed via NIPOST, which was cheesy as fuck. It was one of the happiest moments of my life at the time. I can’t remember how I communicated that to her.
Sarah: You wrote “YES” all over the letter and sent me a picture. It was so cute.
What was dating like?
NK: Intense. Passionate. We had an in-depth understanding of each other and even when we started to have issues, we were able to resolve them because we were able to communicate. We could be logical about our differences and talk about them. That’s something that has stayed with us so far.
Sarah: We started a business together and that also deepened our bond. Our lives seemed to compliment each other. We are both creatives. I write, and they are good with their hands. They work as a project manager and I always had projects to execute. Things were great.
NK: We had a honeymoon phase that lasted over a year. The distance didn’t seem like a big deal because every three months, she either came to Lagos or I went to Abuja.
And then what happened?
NK: In the beginning, we thought we were completely alike and had the same interests, but we had to come to terms with the fact that we were different people with different goals. For example, after our first year together, I realised that I was attracted to other women and wanted to explore that.
How did that make you feel, Sarah?
Sarah: It was hard for me because, before NK, I had only been in toxic relationships where exclusivity wasn’t defined. So in my head, nonmonogamy was trouble. When they said that they were attracted to other women, I felt caught off guard even though I was too. I felt like I was not enough and shouldn’t have gotten so invested in the relationship otherwise I would have seen it coming.
NK: We opened up the relationship in December 2019 and started to fight more than we’ve ever had.
Sarah: Mostly jealousy. I saw the whole thing as a win or lose situation where NK was winning and I was losing.
I also discovered that I was polyamorous and enjoyed having multiple lovers. This made things more complicated.
NK: When I first told her I wanted to explore being with other women, I felt like I had betrayed her and our relationship and that put pressure on me. There was this girl I liked we kept fighting about. Although the girl and I had been flirting, nothing ever happened and I made this clear but Sarah couldn’t trust that. She felt like I wasn’t having sex with her yet because I was planning to fall in love with her. Meanwhile, she was talking to three women and had had sex with two of them.
Sarah: I knew that I wanted to be with other women, but I knew it was going to be casual. I was afraid that NK would fall in love with whoever they were with and leave me. LOL.
NK: I felt like she had answered questions about herself and her sexuality that I was yet to answer for myself. I needed to explore to find those answers without feeling guilty.
Eventually, navigating an open relationship became too difficult, so we closed the relationship. This was during the lockdown in April 2020. She had just gotten a job in Lagos and I had moved out of my uncle’s house, so she moved in with me.
What was spending lockdown together like?
Sarah: It was the longest time we had ever spent together. It was fun for the most part, but we could clearly see our differences. LMAO. One time, I was trying to lose weight and they were trying to bulk up. This made planning meals difficult. I would want a light meal for dinner, and they would want something heavy. I am also a nightcrawler and they sleep like 30+ men.
Sarah: Also, we stopped having sex. I am a sexual person so that period was quite difficult for me. We talked about breaking up because of it but neither of us was ready so we stayed together.
How did the break up happen?
NK: In September 2020, at our friend’s house. The friend and I were talking about sugar mummies, and I said I would like to have one. I mean, the country is hard. LMAO. It was a casual conversation, but Sarah overheard and asked me what that meant for us. We both knew I still wanted to be with other women even though we had closed the relationship. A few more minutes into the conversation, we agreed to break up. I wanted to explore other women and she wanted more sex.
Sarah: We laughed for the first few minutes because the breakup was random. Our friend was so confused. The crying started later that night and omo, e enter.
NK: I just want to add that I didn’t want to break up at the time. She asked me a question and I answered honestly, but it didn’t mean I wanted that experience immediately.
What was breaking up like?
NK: We continued to live together in Lagos because of her job, but we were fighting a lot. Instead of properly addressing how the situation was both for us, we were pointing fingers. I had to carry most of the blame because she made it seem like the breakup wasn’t a mutual decision. I wished she didn’t let me carry the responsibility of our break up alone because it wasn’t just mine to bear.
Sarah: I like to think I am a good person, and being a good person in my head sometimes means not stirring trouble. I had been thinking of us breaking up, but I didn’t want it to happen. That sugar mummy conversation was me ripping off the bandage so I could stop being so scared of it. I wasn’t exactly ready either, and I’m sorry for putting the blame on you.
What was your relationship like post-breakup?
NK: In many ways, nothing changed. We continued to live together, have sex and sleep on the same bed. Still, things changed. We started seeing other people. We talk about our experiences with other people. Sometimes, I make comparisons between myself and the person she’s with and get angry or jealous as a result. We are still adjusting to the new normal. I don’t know what label to give this relationship, but we remain best friends and lovers.
I am mostly comfortable with the way we are now. Mostly because I feel guilty when I don’t share my experiences with other women with her as soon as it happens. I usually like to sit with my feelings and process them before I tell anyone else but when I do that with her, it feels like I have done something wrong. We’re still working through that.
Sarah: Yes, we are. Also, breaking up meant shedding our rules from the open relationship like not going out with people to our special spots or doing certain sexual activities with them. The first few times I had sex with other women I felt like I was cheating on NK. Talking to them about how I feel helps me through the guilt. They encourage me to be present when I’m with other people and enjoy myself. I want them to enjoy themselves too.
Whew, so where are you two now?
Sarah: I went back to Abuja in July 2021. Before I left, we had a conversation where we came to the conclusion that no matter what, we wanted to be in each other’s lives. I love NK and watching them grow has been a blessing. It could be hard but only because I’m looking at the changes from how they affect me rather than what we both need to grow. The space helped me see that I had been navigating this with a tight grip on how things should be, and that’s something I’m learning to do away with.
NK: On my part, I am re-evaluating how much responsibility I allow myself to take on in my interactions with people and how much of myself I give. With our relationship, I’m taking each day as it comes. Currently, we are trying to get an apartment in Lagos.
Together? How would that work?
NK: She has another job here and I was thinking of moving out of my apartment, so it wasn’t a farfetched idea. We enjoy each other’s company and want to share in each other’s lives. However, we would have separate rooms and live separate lives unlike before the breakup.
Sarah: I know we would fight over things like bringing people over, but I also know we are capable of sorting it out and moving past it.
NK: It would be another journey for us to learn to respect each other’s personhood. What I would find invaluable is if after all is said and done, we are still there for each other. I believe Sarah and I can handle whatever comes our way. She’s someone I trust with everything, no matter what has happened. I know her and she knows me.
Sarah: Yup. You are my person, and I believe very much in our friendship.
Does that mean you would do this all over again?
NK: Of course.
Sweet! Rate your relationship on a scale of 1 – 10.
NK: 7 because though we’ve had to navigate through a lot of turmoil, I don’t see it as a hindrance to our relationship. I say 7 because it leaves space for growth in places we are lacking.
Sarah: 8 because this relationship helps me grow emotionally, and I’ve always been able to come as myself 100%. I know that we can be better to each other.
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