Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
Teslim*, 28, and Chibuzo*, 29 dated for four years and have been married for three. Today on Love Life, they talk about transitioning from secondary school best friends to lovers, starting their tech careers together and how they struggled with long distances before marriage.
What’s your earliest memory of each other?
Chibuzo: My earliest memory of him was in secondary school. He joined our set in JSS 2, and we were seatmates. I didn’t really see him until an award ceremony our school organised. He was called up for a prize on stage, and I remember thinking, “This person is smart while I’m sitting here looking at him.” This was in 2004.
Teslim: My first memory is different. Our parents knew each other and one Sunday, we were invited to a function at her house.
Chibuzo: It was my uncle’s wedding.
Teslim: I came with my family and was in the car. When she saw me, she turned and ran in the opposite direction.
Chibuzo: Because I wasn’t dressed.
Teslim: I was shy myself, so it was funny to me. When we went back to school, I teased her about it and that’s how we started talking.
Chibuzo: He also teased me about the way I pronounce the word “purse” — he thought it was funny. We joked around a lot, and as time passed, we became closer. By SS 3, we were best friends.
Did you guys have feelings for each other by then?
Teslim: We were dating other people at the time. She was in a long term relationship that lasted almost six years, and I was also dating someone else. So there wasn’t any romantic vibe.
Chibuzo: We would have deep conversations about family, school, but a lot of it was just banter and lots of laughs at each other’s expense — mostly mine, LOL. Our connection was easy, so after high school, we stayed in touch.
Teslim: We graduated in 2009. She went to Canada for school, and I stayed back in Nigeria. We spoke to each other on and off until 2014 when we started dating.
Hollup, how did that happen?
Chibuzo: We used to chat on Facebook then we moved to BBM in 2011.
Teslim: We also sent each other a lot of emails. In the emails, we talked about school, family and stuff. I used to keep her updated on who I liked at the time and she would do the same.
Chibuzo: Phone calls were difficult because we were in different time zones, so we relied on emails. It got to a point that I looked forward to telling him about my day via email. As time passed, our energy grew romantic. In the Christmas of 2013, Teslim was going through some family stuff and we emailed through it. Slowly, we got closer and started telling each other “I love you”, but in a friendly way.
Teslim: The first time I told you I love you in a romantic way, you ended the call.
Chibuzo: No, I mistakenly dropped the phone and the call went off.
Teslim: Well, it felt like what happened in secondary school when I saw her in her house.
Chibuzo: LOL. We said “I love you” more often after that, but I wasn’t sure we were dating. We were exclusive, but we hadn’t made it official.
Teslim: I think at some point, we were at different stages of the friendship. I was about to move to the US for school and she was in Canada. In my head, I was wondering if a long-distance relationship with her would work.
Teslim: I wasn’t there yet. I didn’t understand how we were going to make it work because keeping in touch was already a hassle. Dating her meant I could lose my best friend if we didn’t work out.
Chibuzo: Meanwhile, I had told a few of my friends that I was going to marry my best friend.
Teslim: She was convinced we could make it work. I decided in January 2014 that I didn’t want to pass up on the opportunity to be with her because of distance. Besides, I was moving to the US, so the time difference was going to be better. We could visit each other as opposed to waiting for about two years to spend time together.
What happened next?
Chibuzo: I visited him in the US twice that year. I was grateful for the freedom to finally be with him in person. I was 22 at the time. We were happy to spend time together. You know how in movies on TV, couples go out on dates at fancy restaurants or a park and all that stuff. I had never experienced that before dating Teslim. 2014 was a good year for us.
Teslim: 2014 was our honeymoon year. We are both from strict homes, so it was truly a gift that we could see each other outside curfews and consistent calls from our parents. We travelled to New York together. We were over the moon.
Chibuzo: It was the year we confirmed that we were going to be with each other for a long time. We call it our confirmation year.
Teslim: Yeah, but as time went on, we realised that just because we were friends didn’t mean that we are aligned in every aspect of life. We struggled with communication for a while. We also had to figure out each other’s ideals and values and reconcile them. We had many fights and conversations because we started to see the differences in our personalities.
Chibuzo is a spontaneous person, and I am rigid. Whenever we were planning stuff together, we would often fight because we have different planning styles. Thankfully, being friends made it a bit easier to confront those hard conversations.
Chibuzo: We would often joke about the stuff we needed to talk about as opposed to blurting it out in anger. Our friendship helped us have difficult conversations.
Teslim: Also, conversations over the phone and conversations in person are different. In 2015, we were trying to tackle hard issues over the phone, and it was difficult because of the lack of nuance of body language or tone. I would say something and she wouldn’t get how I said it because a lot of nuance got lost over video calls.
Chibuzo: In our roughest patch, we argued almost every weekend. A lot of our fights came from the conversations we had about our future. It was crazy. I had just graduated and was trying to figure out what to do with my life. My parents were pressuring me to come back to Nigeria and do NYSC. Teslim told me that if I went back, our relationship would suffer.
I decided to stay and wait for a work permit.
Teslim: I was scared of what would happen to us if she went back. That Nigeria-Canada long distance was brutal, and I wasn’t about to put myself through it again. What would our conversations be like with not just distance but different time zones? I was determined to make it work.
How did you convince her to stay?
Teslim: I used part of my pocket-money to pay her rent. That was one way I would show her I was committed to us. We also had to decide as a unit what we wanted to do with our future. Chibuzo studied geology, and the oil industry wasn’t booming anymore so we weren’t sure of job prospects in that career path. During this time, I had just gotten a product design job, so I asked if she would like to study software engineering. I thought she had the mind for it. She was a bit hesitant, but I told her we’d do it together.
Chibuzo: That made learning it easier. In the beginning, we worked on a lot of stuff together as a team.
Teslim: It was also challenging because we have different working styles. I would try to hold her accountable to her learning with deadlines and some structure, but she was more like it will get done when it gets done. We even started fighting about it. But we figured it out.
So when did marriage come in?
Chibuzo: 2016. I was on track to becoming a permanent Canadian resident, and Teslim got a job at a big tech company. We had to talk about the next step.
Teslim: Before then, we had already hinted to each other that we were going to get married. We talked about what that would look like and how many kids we wanted. When we decided to get married, we started thinking of where we wanted to live. We decided that she would move to the US. We tried applying for jobs, and when that wasn’t happening fast enough, we thought, why not get married now?
Chibuzo: I knew I wanted to marry him, but I wasn’t in a hurry. However, getting married would speed up the immigration process and our relationship could stop being long-distance, so we decided to do it.
Tell me about the wedding!
Teslim: We were both the first people to get married in our families, so it was a big deal. We had to figure out how to set boundaries on the things that were important to us but also make them feel connected and part of the process. It was interesting because we were planning with our families over the phone.
Chibuzo: Left to us, we would have had a small wedding with a few family members and friends, but our families wanted a big wedding. We ended up doing both. We got married legally in Canada in 2018 then had a bigger wedding in Lagos.
Aw. What has marriage been like for you two?
Chibuzo: Being married to Teslim has been great so far! I have become a much better version of myself just from our partnership. He is a goal-oriented person and that has rubbed off on me. I see myself setting goals and smashing them. He has been consistent in how he shows up for me and for himself. This gives me the confidence to navigate the world knowing that he is there for me.
Teslim: I could say the same about her. We complement each other. I always want to make sure she gets the very best out of everything, and she makes it easy. When we disagree these days, we understand it’s not an opportunity to put one person down but to grow together as a unit. I wasn’t a good communicator before we started dating, but that changed. We are able to show up for each other every time, and that’s the best part of our relationship.
What was your biggest fight about and how did you navigate it?
Teslim: While we were setting our expectations for our marriage, one of the things we talked about was whether or not she would be keeping her last name. She wanted to keep it to maintain a sense of connection to her family. Family is important to her.
Chibuzo: Also, it is a huge part of my identity, and I didn’t want to give it up.
Teslim: I come from a traditional home, so it was a tough conversation to have initially, especially because we had agreed to the name change before the wedding and she changed her mind afterwards. It took a while for me to get to the point where I understood her perspective and how deeply coupled her name and identity are. I asked myself why I needed her to when I knew I wouldn’t change mine for anyone. When you also research the history and reasons why women change their names, it just didn’t align with the kind of values we wanted our marriage to uphold.
Deep down, the Nigerian man in me was slightly disappointed with her decision, but I got over it.
Chibuzo: At some point, he thought I was rejecting his family by not taking his last name. I asked if he was rejecting my family by not taking mine.
Teslim: One concern I had was what would we name our kids.
Chibuzo: We decided that their last name would be Teslim’s last name and their middle names would be my last name. We chose this in case we had a girl child who would want to keep her family name as well.
Nice. What have you learned from each other over the years?
Chibuzo: Teslim always follows through with what he says he will do, and that’s something I have learned from him. I had the tendency to be flaky and it’s something I am still working on.
In September 2020, I got diagnosed with ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). My sister noticed that I was trying to do too many things at once and jokingly said, “Are you sure you don’t have ADHD?” I had heard about it, but after she said it, I went to do some research. Almost all the symptoms listed applied to me. I felt seen. Some days later, I went to see a doctor. The diagnosis explained a lot of my behaviours. For example, having the motivation to start something but not wanting to finish it and then I have to deal with the guilt.
Teslim also helps me be more organised. I am an impulsive person and that’s one way I complement him — I have added more spontaneity to his life, the same way he added more structure to mine. That way, we are able to cover each other’s blind spots.
Teslim: It is hard to quantify how much Chibuzo brings to my life. She is a joyful and kind person and that rubs off on me. My life is pretty stable in the sense that I don’t have peaks of joys and valleys of sadness, but she brings some color into my life. I love that our differing perspectives balance each other out. For example, Chibuzo will spend a little more money to improve our quality of life while I prefer to save every single penny. That balances out and leaves us in a healthy spot.
She is also one of the reasons why I was able to break into tech. We built my portfolio together — I would design the product and she would do the code. With time, I got my job, then we did the same for her. I don’t think I would have been able to advance as much as I have if she wasn’t in my life. It helped to have someone smarter than I am around me. She is amazing all round, to be honest.
Rate the relationship on a scale of 1 to 10.
Chibuzo: 9.5. I’m so happy with him. Yes, we have our differences, but we can always talk through them. I feel content with him and our relationship.
Teslim: I was going to say 5.
Chibuzo: 5? Open the door and walk out.
Teslim: LOL. It’s 9.5 for me. I’m happy with us and where we are. Maybe if you asked me when we were fighting, I might rate a 6. Right now, we are in a place where our goals are aligned and we trust each other.
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