I was midway through one of my university internships when I met him - who I fondly called E. I remember getting home that day and telling my cousin I had found my husband. He had just been employed at the firm and though I knew almost nothing about him at the time. I just felt he was the one.
Days later, I found out he was from Edo state, and I was all shades of sad because I knew my parents would definitely have issues with him. So I went from seeing him as ‘the one’ to seeing him as my senior colleague. He being a naturally jovial person made me start having a crush on him. I didn’t pay much attention to it because of our ethnic differences and also because I knew my internship was coming to an end.
Few days before I left the firm, we exchanged numbers and he promised to check up on me once in a while. He kept in touch like he said he would. He said he found me interesting to talk to - so naturally, we went from talking once a week to two times a week and then every day. I knew I enjoyed talking to him as well but I was too scared to let it all happen.
Asides our ethnic differences, there was the age factor. I was going on 21 and he was going on 30.
Despite these, my friends and family (except my parents whoa no idea) thought I should still give it a try. At some point, I let my mum in on it all. I could tell she wasn’t against it, but she said she would get my dad’s opinion on the subject matter. I knew the odds were low because I had grown up hearing my mum say we should only marry Yorubas or at worst, non-Yorubas who have lived among the Yorubas for a long while and therefore understand our language and other aspects of the culture.
My mum gave me feedback and reported my dad to have said something better summarized as a big fat NO.
I still went ahead because I thought what E and I had was strong enough to conquer all the opposing forces. I also was encouraged because he seemed like he was also willing to try to fight for what we had. The relationship continued normally and somewhere along the line, I met his friends and siblings. I learnt a great deal about himself and his family as he did of mine. We were in what was supposed to be a serious relationship so there were talks of marriage and settling down occurring very often. That was when we thought it was best for him to meet my parents with the hope that this would totally diminish their fears about his ethnic background. In retrospect, this was a foolish decision in the short run but one I came to be satisfied with in the long run.
He met my parents and simply put, he was not satisfied with the manner in which my dad received him. It all went downhill from here. I was several shades of hurt and tired. When I wasn’t crying, I was either thinking or scheming ways to make my parents see reason with me. I sought a lot of advice from older people and all I got either fell along the lines of "you should not be with someone your parents don’t approve of" or "It’s just tribe, it is not that much of a big deal since both of you are of the same faith". I had never been faced with such a tough decision in my life. That was unarguably my Gordian knot of the year 2016.
As if coming up with a solution was not difficult enough, we started having issues in the relationship. E begun acting all cold and unresponsive and I was trying so hard not to flare up because I didn’t want to trigger a breakup. I was taking it all in. We had back-to-back talks about a lot of things. How he was getting old and needed to settle down; How apart from our ethnicity issues we also had timing issues; How I had still had a long way to go (2020) before wanting to settle down; How he didn't want to rob me of my dreams because I had so much potential to just let it drown because I wanted to be with him.
I think he was being selfish while also trying to look out for me. He wanted to settle down as soon as he could and he wanted to do that with me if he could. But he also thought that I had so much more to achieve until 2020 that marriage could stand in the way of. The back to back talks of making compromises kept popping up.
I went from being hell bent on wanting to get settled in 2020 to being open to the option of getting married immediately after my Masters to the option of me getting married immediately after compulsory National Youth Service Year (NYSC) and going for my Master’s afterwards and also to the option of me doing my Master’s immediately after my undergraduate degree (before NYSC) - but we still could not find a way around it.
All my efforts went down the drain.
Amidst all the struggle, I kept talking to God and telling to end it all because I was getting very stressed and it was telling on my academics. It was even worse because E went from being all concerned about how we could make it work to being very insouciant about the whole thing. We eventually broke up after 5 months which includes the time we spent getting to know each other before the relationship proper.
I honestly know that we could have worked around all our issues - but the ethnicity issue triggered many things that resulted in several chain reactions and struck dozens of nerve endings.
I cried so much after it ended. I cried to bed every day for 2 weeks, I had blackouts during the day and I was often lost in thought. Everything seemed to remind me of him, all the memories kept reverberating in my head and caused headaches. It really appeared like everything in the universe conspired to torture me because everywhere I went, a reminder of him was there. Everywhere I went, the songs we listened to together blared from people’s speakers. I honestly can only try but I can never put how I felt in words.
It was particularly painful because we actually did like each other and he seemed like the perfect person but we just had to let it all go down the drain because of the mere fact that we are not from the same part of Nigeria. Everything that happened just made me further understand that Nigeria still has a long way to being called ‘one Nigeria’ and amalgamation is probably the greatest hoax Africa has experienced since 1914.
I am now writing this story with a happy heart and a clear mind. For the first few weeks after we split, I was angry at him for not fighting for us, for not wanting to make it work, for not being strong enough, for not choosing me. But then I realized that sometimes, it is okay to put yourself first especially when it comes to important issues like settling down. I stopped blaming him when I realized that I also would not want to be married into a family where they have issues with things I can’t change about myself like my ethnic group
I moved on after a while but I am glad that somewhere along my life, I met him. He was easily one of the most significant people I met that year.
In retrospect, I am delighted he didn’t give me the option of choosing him. I am nauseous with mirth because of the fact that he kept telling me I had so much more to achieve out of life and I should not dim my potential.
In April 2017, E got married to who I hope is the true love of his life - he deserves to be happy. I am back to being wanting to get married in 2020 to the love of my own life I started talking to shortly after E and I split - yes, he's Yoruba, from Lagos State.
I don’t think it’s out of place to say we won. He settled down as he wished to. I am back to my 2020 goal with who I am sure is a better choice. It is safe to say E and I got we both wanted (though from other people). Still, we both won.
I'm thankful to A for sharing this!
Although I'm a huge fan of inter-ethnic relationships, I'm realistic enough to understand that sometimes - the forces against it are so great that such a union is unlikely to end well. As always, I only hope that we are better - more open and more informed in not judging people simply based on matters such as ethnicity.
I know people who play it safe and simply refuse to take the conversation further once they realise they hail from different ethnic groups. Are you that way? Would you be willing / did you have to 'fight' for love. I know there are lots more people with similar situations - if you've got any advice or thoughts, please share!