October 1

Relationships are tough. It’s inherent. I know the situation in Naija doesn’t make it any easier, but many people mistake the inherent stress of a relationship as something unique to gay relationships.

Relationships are hard. Period! Whether or not you are gay or straight, or gay in Naija or Dubai or England, it’s hard to be in a relationship. It’s also risky putting your heart on the line, and many times it feels like it isn’t worth it, and perhaps it isn’t, but not to me. Certain things make relationships in certain areas unique in their problems, but it doesn’t mean that when you end up somewhere else, you won’t find problems that seem insurmountable.

When the word ‘relationship’ comes up, I’m sure most of us imagine a closed-off, monotonous way of living, a prison of some sort. That’s a relationship, but it’s the wrong sort. A relationship that is going to work shouldn’t feel like – or even be – a prison. It has to be somewhere where you want to be, somewhere you are happy to be.

Whether it’s open, closed, comprised of three or more people, I believe that as long as there is honest and sincere communication and a willingness to see the other(s) happy, then it should work.

This means that whoever you are with needs to know what you expect of them from the start, and you need to know what is expected of you. Along the way, as you change (because human beings change), you need to learn the skill of accommodating the other person(s) because you are not changing alone.

It’s a lot of sacrifice and compromise to be in a relationship. But here’s the trick: sacrifice and compromise shouldn’t feel too much like it. Y’all need to find a middle ground as often as possible, and if an impasse is reached, you need to find a way to work around it.

This of course is for people out there who want something lasting. Some people question how exactly this goal is, but I say: “Fuck it!” Love is out there and I sure as hell ain’t gonna sit my ass down and hope it comes. You reap what you sow.

I don’t undermine people who believe relationships aren’t for them. But I believe that if you think you have a shot at finding happiness with another person, then you should go for it with an open heart and mind.

If there’s one thing I’ve realised from my relationships, it’s that it is folly to put your (chance at) happiness in another human being. You need to learn to be happy and content on your own, because if you aren’t, it’s going to make you enter relationships for the wrong reasons, and you’ll either give and give or take and take till the whole thing crumbles.

You can’t handle a relationship until you are your own person to a reasonable extent. If you aren’t and a breakup happens, it’d be ten times worse for you.

Many times, I’ve been made fun of and teased about the number of relationships I’ve had, considering that I am relatively young and I’ve had more boyfriends than people older than me. I’m made to look like I’m a poor sap who can’t be on his own and constantly jumps from one person to the other.

I’ll admit I didn’t know what I was doing. And it wasn’t my fault. I’ve always believed in relationships and I’ve always wanted someone I could share my life with – a roommate, fuck buddy, best friend, etc all rolled into one. But I still didn’t know what it meant to be in a relationship. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know it could be very hard. I didn’t know that there’d be moments of crippling doubt, anger, jealousy, turning the other cheek and all.

What I didn’t know, I later learnt from all those relationships. Now, I know what I want, what I don’t want; I learnt more about myself and about others and why my relationships failed. I used to be ashamed of the number and of myself because it looked like I couldn’t keep a guy or make them want to stay – but not anymore. If putting myself out there to be disappointed and injured and all is what it takes, then I think it’s worth it.

Relationships aren’t talked about often even here. I’m talking about real life stuff and not the things from fiction.

We cry and cry that gay men are marrying women; meanwhile there’s no real platform to teach gay men in Nigeria how to be with each other in a country like ours. Of course experience is the best teacher but learning from others also helps.

Maybe it’s because there are such few men together in long-standing relationships and fewer that want to be in one, but maybe, if it’s shown that it can be done, hope can be ignited and things might change.

We say, “Avoid marrying unsuspecting straight women”, but if we successfully do that, then what? I’m guessing a number of us don’t want to be alone when we are older, so maybe we need to take relationships serious and learn how to maneuver their tumultuous waters.

Maybe do what I try to do. Abolish fear (that’s what draws most people back). Then have a period where you let the person you hope to be with know of your intentions and test the waters. Go on dates, hang out, talk, let it drag on for as long as possible till you and the other person stop pretending to be on your best behaviour. And when you see the ugliness, decide whether you can deal with it and be with that person hoping for the best, but not being surprised if the worst should come.

Don’t forget to learn to be a better person for yourself and for the other person. It’s not pretending but genuinely wanting to make things work and doing what it takes. Try and make sure y’all are always on the same page. Learn to apologise. Learn to know when to make peace and when to stand your ground. Learn how the other person wants to be loved and teach the other person to love too. Most times, you’d find that people will love you the way they want to be loved.

And no, Love is not just an emotion. Love is action. Love is not just what you feel; it is also what you do. Love, when it comes from both parties, is always enough because love will make you want to do what will make the other person happy. Sure, being human that we are, we are prone to negative emotions, but as long as there is love, shortcomings will be taken care of.

Shout-out to bae (who may or may not be a him, but it hurts when we have sex) – my lil ray of sunshine. Kizzeeez!

Written by IBK