For love, money, or papers?
Before I left Nigeria, I shared with Sayo what I thought would be potential challenges for our relationship and during our separation, these topics came up more than once and led to some pretty intense conversations. Near the top of the list was the fact that we were in different stages of life: I’d been in the workforce for over a decade, earning a salary that supported my life. I could meet my needs and
Starbucks too wants. Sayo was still establishing himself after a ridiculously long journey to complete the requirements of his bachelor’s degree (thank you, Nigeria). He was legally hustling, doing whatever he could get his hands on to make a living while trying to find a good job.
Because of this, I was cautious. I had to make sure that he was interested in me for who I was and not for what I could potentially bring to his life. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I’ve talked about marrying for papers. I’ve talked about shady men and their secret wives, I’ve asked why Nigerian men in Nigeria are looking for love with Nigerian women online (why go online when there are plenty of Nigerian women around them?), and I’ve answered a reader’s question about whether or not her Nigerian beau’s love was for real. I’ve blogged about immigration (more than once), and going home to find Mr. Right.
Now, are all Nigerians based in Nigeria dying to leave the country? Absolutely not! That being said, we all know someone (or a friend of a friend) who was duped, and the jury’s out on whether I was duped in a past relationship, so I’m sensitive to it. As a result, I hurt Sayo more than once by sharing my concerns about his “true intentions”, but I had to ask. And even when I got what sounded like a good response, I told Sayo many times that even a liar would respond as he had. So really, he couldn’t win.
The topic of money also came up during our courtship. I want my man to take care of me emotionally as well as financially. Even if I were earning more money than my husband, I’d expect him to contribute financially.
My current money mindset is a good one (if I say so myself!), shaped in large part by how my parents treated money. I need the security of a financial cushion and because of past experiences, I don’t always trust people when they say they’ll pay back a loan. Sayo and I have different views on some money-related topics and it’s one of the things that we need to sort out.
As our relationship progressed, we discussed our future, specifically, whether I would move to Nigeria or if Sayo would move to Canada. If Sayo moved here, I thought about how I’d feel being the primary breadwinner while he gets established (that wasn’t on my vision board!). I wondered if I’d be comfortable with the time it may take him to get on his feet and if he would take advantage of the situation (for example, being slow to find a job, or waiting for me to get home from work to make his dinner when he’s been at home all day—shudder!). I also worried that I might have unreasonable financial expectations of him early on.
And love. Sayo’s right: it took me a while to tell him that I loved him and after I said it the first time, I backtracked. For a long time, when he would say that he loved me, my reply was “Thank you”. My lack of reciprocity hurt him at times and he eventually asked me not to thank him for loving me, that me saying that I loved him was the thanks that he wanted.
This relationship has revealed to me that my concept of love is underdeveloped: I can say that I love the internet or candy, but it’s harder for me to express love for people outside my immediate family—my past experiences had closed me off more than I thought. Sayo brought me to my knees one time when he asked if I believed that someone could love me more than my parents did! Doesn’t that just get you? I couldn’t imagine anyone loving me more than my parents do, and I couldn’t imagine loving an “outsider” more than I love my parents.
I asked some people how they knew they were in love and most of them told me that “when you know, you know”, but guess what? I didn’t know! Most of my friends had married when we were a lot younger, and they hadn’t overthought the matter: they decided if they could “see themselves” spending the rest of their lives together and if the answer was yes, they got married. My sister said she decided to marry my brother-in-law because he was a good man and things felt right; my parents pointed to the character of the other person being a huge factor in their decision to marry.
I seem like a normal person but when I say I overthink, you don’t even know! I couldn’t trust myself so I even searched online for things like “how do you know that you love someone” (don’t bother; there’s no test you can take that spits out a result like “You love him 85%—take the risk and get married!”). I asked my dentist and her husband how they met. I also asked God to help me with my decision-making and to block anything that wasn’t supposed to work out. I think the constant noise in my head kept me from hearing from God distinctly.
And unconditional love! I’m really good at conditional love (heh), so having to think about if I would love Sayo if x, y, or z happened was hard! And then there was the emoji. I never told Sayo that I was deliberately using a purple heart in our chats but when I first used a red heart he noticed, and that’s how it has been in this relationship: me letting my guard down slowly and Sayo celebrating the small victories.
I have a lot of growing to do in the area of love and Sayo seems more than qualified to teach me.
Not everything about Sayo was to my taste; read on!