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Love Life: I know he has a wife and kids in Nigeria

Love Life: I know he has a wife and kids in Nigeria

To love life is a weekly series by Zikoko about love, relationships, situations, entanglements and everything in between.

What is your earliest memory of each other?

Teju: We met at work when I came to the States in September 2019. We are both nurses in a public hospital. She and another Nigerian were the only Africans there at the time. She had been here for almost two years before me. So she took me under her wing, helping me navigate and survive in my new environment.

Raspberry: I liked him immediately when I met him because I have a soft spot for Nigerian men. But we started off as a platonic relationship. I’ve been happily married since I was 23.

We started working closely together for long hours, so we started talking and sharing things from our lives. From day one, we both knew the other was married. I would say that loneliness brought us together.

How did you find your way in the US without your partners?

Raspberry: We planned to move together very early on in our relationship, before we got married. But I got a Master’s visa and he didn’t. They keep denying it, so he’s still in Dar es Salaam. He’s working in Canada now. Once that’s done, we’ll figure out how to reunite… if we still want to.

Teju: I didn’t come in the easiest way, so I couldn’t take my family with me – my wife and two children. I have to organize everything and then send them. But planning this is getting more and more expensive. And I’m not in a hurry anymore.

Why not?

Teju:This will get me into trouble.

I’m just comfortable with the way things are now. I love being with Malin. When I left Nigeria, things got dry between me and my wife. I won’t lie, we were supposed to split up, but we weren’t the most passionate couple.

Raspberry: For me, the fact that he hasn’t been able to get a visa for so long is a red flag. I’m tired of waiting and holding on to this hope.

Do they know you’re together?

Raspberry: No. Why would I start such a drama?

Teju: I considered telling my wife, but I think it would be cruel. I know she wouldn’t understand. It would only break her.

Let’s back up a bit. How did you get into this relationship?

Teju: We went from working closely together to her helping me find a better place to sleep, figuring out the subway and my commute. That first month, we were always together—at work, on the road, at home. She also helped me figure out my meals. In between all that, love happened.

Raspberry: Like I said, I was lonely. And it helped that he wasn’t a pervert. I met a decent, nice Nigerian guy when I was at my lowest point and it felt good to help him. I knew that being in his space for so long and being so available would lead to something else, but I couldn’t help myself.

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What happened next?

Teju: COVID came and as essential workers we worked even longer hours, wore PPE and moved around while everyone else was staying home. That was the height of our friendship. Just constantly exhausted, joking with other coworkers. We slept most nights in the hospital.

In October 2020, my apartment lease ended and we started talking about becoming roommates so we could save up money to rent a decent two-bedroom apartment.

Raspberry: We ended up getting a three-bedroom apartment with a third girl I knew from my previous building. That’s when we technically moved in together. That’s when we started sleeping together. He ended up spending most of his nights in my room.

Did your spouses know that people of the opposite sex lived in your house?

Teju:My wife found out.

I was originally supposed to live with my aunt when I moved here. Malin convinced me that I could get a cheap apartment closer to where we work and I was so excited that I wouldn’t have to live with a relative my own age.

My aunt finally came to visit me when I moved into my new apartment. She recognized Malin but didn’t say anything. Next thing I knew, my wife had brought it up during one of our video calls. My aunt called to tell her. She wasn’t happy at all, but I assured her not to worry about it.

Raspberry:My husband knew we were roommates. He didn’t think much of it. Maybe because we had another girl with us. But he doesn’t know we have a small house with a mortgage and we moved in together.

When did it happen?

Raspberry: In July 2021 and we have been living there together since then. Our relationship has improved since then. We started talking about plans and finances because we wanted our lives to move forward.

Teju: We spent too long in one place, struggling to reconnect with our partners. We were ready to move on, at least in our careers and personal development. We took courses to be able to advance and so on.

Raspberry:Most of his money goes to his children’s education in Nigeria. I am glad he does this, but it is also a constant reminder of his outside responsibilities and what this means for our future.

Have you talked about the future yet?

Teju: Few.

But a few months after we moved in, one of our coworkers suggested we get married in a common-law marriage so we could get some benefits. So we did.

Raspberry:To all our friends, coworkers, and the state of Texas: we are married.

And your current spouses don’t suspect anything?

Teju: They don’t. I talk to my wife once a week and still send her money. We’re still saving up for them to join me. We decided the best way would be for me to get PR and then invite them.

Now that Malin and I have made common law, that may not work. She doesn’t know that. We’ll cross the bridge when we get there.

Raspberry: I don’t think my husband suspects. He’s still hyper focused on Canada. That’s all we talk about right now. He’s working on moving in 2025. I’m rooting for him.

We try not to talk about our marriage too much because I think we both want to avoid causing sadness and regret.

So what happens when they finally manage to leave Africa?

Raspberry: I don’t know yet.

I love Teju, but I’ve confided in him that I may still have feelings for my husband. He was the love of my life before this whole unfortunate breakup. And Teju needs to take care of his kids.

Teju: I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. I think Malin and I will stay together until then. We’re a good team and I can’t imagine figuring out life in this country with anyone else.

How did you manage to build a professional relationship despite infidelity?

Teju: Ah. We don’t think of it that way. We just did the best we could under the circumstances that life gave us.

Raspberry: Our relationship works because we don’t focus on guilt and regret. It’s about being each other’s support system in this lonely world.

We also work together, so it’s a lot easier to have someone to do everything with.

You’ve given a whole new meaning to the term “work spouse”

Raspberry: Yes. I guess you could call us work spouses who take the name seriously.

I don’t feel like I’m cheating. My husband and I can’t be together and I just have to put my life on hold?

Teju: The only thing that bothers me is that I know my family would have been here a lot sooner if I hadn’t met Malin. There are things we could have done by now if I had been more excited about them coming.

Raspberry: Yeah, it’s tough because if his kids were here we wouldn’t have to spend so much money on school bills.

Are you going to keep sending money home while it’s there?

Teju: Yes. One thing I will never do is neglect my duties as a father. My dad was an absentee father, so I feel bad enough that I put my children through that.

Raspberry: That’s the only thing that causes friction in our relationship. His children may be the only people he loves more than me.

What do you think about it, Malin?

Raspberry: Sometimes I feel like I have baggage I didn’t expect. But I know it’s indelicate to say so, given the circumstances.

Teju: Yes, there’s no way around it.

Have you ever thought about having children of your own?

Raspberry:I’m not sure if I want to be with him.

Teju: We decided to wait until we could figure out where we stand with the people at home first. But it’s not completely out of the question. At least not for me.

Raspberry: This will be a huge step. I don’t want to drag the baby into too much drama. We could be discovered at any moment. It’s both exciting and terrifying.

Did your spouse discover you?

Raspberry: Yes.

Have you had any serious fights yet?

Teju: Not really.

Raspberry: We argue a lot about a lot of things. But it’s always peaceful. I don’t think we’re ever really mad at each other.

Teju: We’re almost always at work anyway. So between that, sex, and sleep, there’s not much time for arguments.

Sweet. How would you rate your Love Life on a scale of 1 to 10?

Raspberry: 9. We just understand each other and the way we support each other in our good and bad moments without judging is so valuable. The uncertainty also makes everything exciting but I know we are not in fantasy land and at any moment it could happen.

Teju: I guess I’ll say 9 too. I love being with her. I love spending my life with her in the States. She’s helped me achieve so much more than I ever imagined.

The first will probably be that she still loves her husband and I still love my children.

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