Not all relationships are smooth and sweet, some end with long-lasting trauma. In this article, five Nigerian women talk about their experience with toxic relationships.
Tife, 26, M
I met Bobo at a birthday party in 2017. At the time, I was in a relationship with someone else but we were on the verge of breaking up. I liked him from the moment I saw him and we got talking. He was a medical student in his finals. I was also a final year law student. I stayed in one of the female hostels inside UI and he used to come to visit me from University College Hospital. He came twice a week. It was lovely. I broke up with that person and started dating Bobo. I even told my mum that I already found my husband.
About three months into the relationship, I started noticing some childish behaviours. For example, one time I went to see him and I ended up sleeping in his room. We had sex that day and after it happened, he said, “We shouldn’t have done this. You seduced me. Even if I’m not strong enough to not touch you, you should be strong enough to stop me”. I was too shocked to say anything.
He also wanted to be right all the time. One time, he came to visit me in my hostel without telling me before coming. He just called me and said, “I’m in front of your hostel. Look sexy”. It took about 20 minutes to dress up and that upset him. He left and texted me saying, “I think we should break up.” I should have just agreed to it but I begged him. That was the beginning of a long emotional back and forth in the name of a relationship.
There was always a fight to be resolved and I was always to blame for everything. Every time we had sex, he blamed me. He would come to my campus, book a room at the guest house and still blame me for agreeing to see him in the room.
When he left medical school, he went back to his parents’ house, which was on the outskirts of Ibadan. One time I went to visit him there. It was a long trip on a hot day so I asked him for cold water as soon as I got in. He said, “There’s no cold water o.” I threw a tantrum and said, “You knew I was coming and didn’t put water in the freezer for me”. He got pissed, said he wanted to go and sleep. He suggested I go back to campus and offered to give me back my transport fare.
When I got back to school, he refused to speak to me. The silent treatment was normal in our relationship. Eventually, I apologized to him. He said I should learn some manners or else no one will marry me. There were a lot of other things. He loved sex a lot and always wanted to have sex with me everywhere — we had sex on top of Olumo rock. Asides from that, he would always say I was not enough for him and nothing I wore ever looked good enough for him. He always had a comment to make. I dated him for nine months and that time felt like hell.
When we broke up, it was because he stopped talking to me. He went for housemanship in Shagamu and I took a job in Abeokuta. He had gotten a car so I asked him to drive down to see me and he said I was being unreasonable. He was quiet for a while and when I asked, he said, “We should go our separate ways.“ It hurt for a while but eventually I was relieved.
IB, 25, M
My last relationship was like a drug. When I met my ex, we started as friends. We lived together during the lockdown for a month or two. He would say hurtful things to me in anger and later apologize. During the first month, he called me a witch. That day, I cried so much. Another time he woke me up by 3 am to shout at me because he thought I said I bought water but there was no water.
Over time, it became normal. He would say mean things to me and I would say things back. I became someone I couldn’t recognize. I knew it was wrong but I stayed. Every time we fought, he’d get me something I had said I liked. It was the first relationship I was in that anyone ever cared to buy me nice things. The gifts made me get carried away. Toxic relationships feel like getting high. The sex wasn’t even that great, but the thrill from fighting and making up was. Even after we broke up, we stayed together. I hated him but I spent a lot of time with him.
Things ended when I had to move back to Nigeria and it was my best escape. We don’t talk as much anymore. I haven’t dated anyone since it ended. I met someone I liked recently but she was exhibiting some toxic behaviours so I ended things. I can’t be in another toxic relationship.
Sophie, 23, M
We had known each other since my first year in university and in our final year, we started dating. He was the sweetest at first until I began to notice him snapping at me over the slightest things. He would argue with me until I was drained. He would never listen to my apologies but he expected me to forgive the minute he said sorry.
He also made it clear that his friends came before me. Whenever anything was going on with him, I would be the last to know. He would tell me he was sad and couldn’t talk to me but I would see him hanging out with his friends. One time, he said I brought him bad luck because when we started dating, his finances dipped.
Eventually, I broke up with him but I couldn’t stay away. He told me he was depressed and suicidal, so we kept going back and forth for almost a year after the breakup. I found out that he was only using it as an excuse to hold on to my money. He was addicted to gambling and that’s why he was losing money. He duped a lot of people of millions of naira. There was a bounty on his head and I didn’t know until someone reached out to me. I even defended him because I couldn’t believe it but then he duped a close friend as well. People would send me texts calling me names for being with him. He denied every part of it, of course, and he always had one excuse or the other.
It was all messy and it was a miracle I was able to break away. I didn’t realize how tired and sad I was all the time until I stopped talking to him and I’m glad I’m in a much better place now. I wouldn’t wish my experience on even my enemies.
Mercedes, 23, F
Toxic relationships don’t ever start toxic. For me, I thought she was the best thing to happen to me. I thought we were meant to be. After a few months, I noticed a few things about her. She would insult me and call it a joke. She went through my phone often and wanted to know everything I did.
I remembered reaching out to a psychologist on Instagram after seeing a carousel post that described my relationship aptly. It confirmed what I already suspected — the relationship was toxic but I didn’t leave then. I continued to project the image of a happy couple to my friends.
I agreed to almost everything she wanted because she would give me silent treatment when things don’t go her way. I know I played my part in the whole thing by remaining in that toxic cycle and pretending to everyone, even lying to myself that I was fine but I didn’t know better.
Anyway, the relationship ended with her physically attacking me. My shoulder got dislocated but I am glad it didn’t get worse than that. That incident was the eye-opener I didn’t know I needed. After that day, I packed my bags and left.
The relationship started fine. We were attracted to each other and I felt like I had met my person. After a while, it felt as if I was the only one in the relationship. He was the centre of my life meanwhile he would make plans without even telling me. He would go days without talking to me for no reason at all. When I pointed it out, he would say I was imagining things.
I knew I should have left early but he was also my best friend so I stayed for four years. Being in an emotionally and mentally draining relationship isn’t something words can explain because as a person, you’re trying to figure things out yourself. One of my major takeaways from that experience is that people shouldn’t hold onto potentials in relationships. Does the person have what you want right now or not? Are they the kind of person you’d want to be with right now or are you hoping they’ll grow into that image? Because sometimes, they never grow into that image.