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Love Life: I Know He Has a Wife and Kids in Nigeria

Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.

What’s your earliest memory of each other?

Teju: We met at work when I just got to the states in September 2019. We’re both nurses in a state hospital. She and one other Nigerian guy were the only Africans at the time. She’d been here for close to two years before me. So she took me under her wing, helping me to navigate and survive in the new environment. 

Malin: I liked him immediately I met him because I have a thing for Nigerian men. But we started off platonic. I’d been happily married since I was 23.

We started working closely together for long hours, so we got to talking and oversharing stuff about our lives. From day one, we both knew the other was married. I’d say loneliness brought us together.

How did you both find yourselves in the US without your partners?

Malin: We planned to relocate together very early on in our relationship before we got married. But I got my master’s visa, and he didn’t. They’ve consistently denied him one, so he’s still in Dar es Salaam. Now, he’s working on Canada. Once that works out, we’ll figure out how to unite… if we still want to.

Teju: I didn’t come in the most straightforward way, so I couldn’t bring my family — my wife and two kids. I’m supposed to put things in place then send for them. But it’s becoming much more expensive to plan that. And I’m no longer in a hurry.

Why not?

Teju: This will get me in trouble. 

I’m just comfortable with the way things are now. I love being with Malin. Things had gotten dry between me and my wife when I left Nigeria. I won’t lie that we were about to break up, but we weren’t the most passionate couple. 

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

Do they know you guys are together?

Malin: No. Why would I want to start that kind of drama?

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

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

Teju: We went from working closely together to her helping me get a better place to stay, figure out the subway and commute. In 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.

Malin: Like I said, I was lonely. And it helped that he wasn’t a creep. I met a decent, likeable Nigerian guy when I was at my lowest point, and it felt good helping him out. I knew staying so long in his space and being so accessible would lead to something else, but I couldn’t stop myself.

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What happened next?

Teju: COVID came, and being essential workers, we worked even longer hours, wearing PPEs and moving around when everyone else was stuck indoors. That was the highpoint of our friendship. Just constantly exhausted while making jokes with our other coworkers. We slept most nights in the hospital. 

October 2020, the lease was up on my apartment, and we somehow started talking about being housemates so we could pool money together and get a decent two-bed.

Malin: We ended up getting a three-bed with a third girl I knew from my former building. That’s when we technically moved in together. It’s also when we started sleeping together. He ended up spending most nights in my room.

Were your spouses aware you had housemates of the opposite gender?

Teju: My wife found out.

I was originally supposed to live with my aunt when I moved here. Malin convinced me I could get a cheap flat closer to our workplace, and I was so excited to not have to squat with a relative at my age.

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

Malin: My husband knew we were housemates then. He didn’t think too deep into it. Maybe because there was another girl with us. But he doesn’t know we have a small house on mortgage, and we’ve moved in together. 

When did that happen?

Malin: In July 2021, and we’ve lived there together since. Our relationship levelled up after that. We started talking plans and finances because we wanted to move our life forward. 

Teju: We’d spent too long in one place, struggling to reunite with our partners. We were ready to move on, at least in our careers and personal development. We took courses so we could get promotions and so on.

Malin: The bulk of his money goes to his kids’ education in Nigeria. I’m happy he does it, but it’s also a constant reminder of his external responsibilities and what that means for our future.

Have you discussed the future yet?

Teju: Not much. 

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

Malin: To all our friends and colleagues and the state of Texas, we’re married.

And your actual spouses don’t suspect a thing?

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

Now that Malin and I did the common-law thing, it might not work. She doesn’t know that. We’ll cross the bridge when we get there.

Malin: I don’t think my husband suspects. He’s still hyper-focused on Canada. That’s all we talk about now. He’s working towards relocating in 2025. Fingers crossed for him. 

We try not to talk too much about our marriage because I think we’re both trying not to trigger sadness and regret.

So what happens when they finally make it out of Africa?

Malin: I don’t know yet. 

I love Teju, but I’ve confided in him that I might still have feelings for my husband. He was the love of my life before the whole unfortunate split. And Teju has his kids to figure out.

Teju: I don’t see it happening anytime soon. I see Malin and I staying together until then. We’re a good team, and I can’t imagine figuring out life in this country with anyone else.

How have you managed to build a working relationship on the back of infidelity?

Teju: Ahh. We don’t think about it that way. We just did our best with the circumstances life gave us.

Malin: 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 work together as well, so it’s been much easier to have someone to do everything with.

You guys give “work spouse” a whole new meaning 

Malin: Yes. I suppose you could call us work spouses that took the name seriously.

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

Teju: The only thing I feel bad about is I know my family would’ve been here much faster if I didn’t get together with Malin. There are some things we could’ve done by now if I was a lot more excited for them to be here.

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

Do you see yourself continuing to send money home for as long as they’re there?

Teju: Yes. One thing I’ll never do is default on my responsibilities as a father. My dad was an absent father, so I feel bad enough that I’m putting my kids through that.

Malin: That’s the only thing that brings friction to our relationship. His kids might be the only people he loves more than me.

And how do you feel about that, Malin?

Malin: Sometimes, it feels like baggage I didn’t bargain for. But I know it’s insensitive to say that given the circumstances.

Teju: Yeah, there’s no way around that.

Have you ever thought about having your own kids?

Malin: I’m not sure I want to with him yet. 

Teju: We decided we’d wait till we figured out where we stand with the people back home first. But it’s not completely off the books. At least, not for me.

Malin: It’ll be a huge step. I don’t want to bring a baby into too much drama. We could get discovered at any moment. It’s both exciting and terrifying.

Discovered by your spouses?

Malin: Yes.

Have you had any major fights yet?

Teju: Not really.

Malin: We argue a lot about very many things. But it’s always chill. I don’t think we’ve ever been genuinely angry with each other.

Teju: We’re almost always at work anyway. So between that, sex and sleep, not much time to fight.

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

Malin: 9. We just get each other, and the way we support each other‘s rights and wrongs without judgement is so precious. The uncertainty makes things exciting too, but I know we’re not in la la land and shit can hit the fan at any moment.

Teju: I guess I’ll say 9 too. I love being with her. I love that I’m doing life in the states with her. She’s helped me achieve way more than I ever imagined.

The 1 will probably be for the fact that she still loves her husband and I still love my kids.

Check back every Thursday by 9 AM for new Love Life stories here. The stories will also be a part of the Ships newsletter, so sign up here.

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