Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Navigating The Nuances Of A Long Distance, Polyamorous Relationship

This article is part of a series sponsored by Ding.

Every time I phone my other half and don’t get through to him, I’m convinced he’s with another woman. Knowing my previous outlook on relationships, it feels insane, typing those words. It feels more insane that I am typing them with the full knowledge that people will read this, yet the truth is that this is the reality of my long distance relationship.

Generally speaking, I’m a pretty open book, but discussing the details of my situationship openly is something I actively steer away from. I tend not to speak on it in spaces or on platforms where I can’t provide intricate details about the multiple complex layers which enable my relationship to exist as it does.

Moreover, I know that many people, particularly those from the [Black] British dating scene, will automatically pass judgement which tempts me to rot in the shame of my silence. In recent times, however, I am grappling with the truth about my romantic desires and have found myself drawn to the prospect of what it would be like to talk, and I mean really talk, on the personal and cultural circumstances surrounding my love life.

Making the decision to date within this context has forced me to really reckon with what I need and value in romantic relationships.

For context, I am dating a man who lives in Lagos where dating looks very different to anything I’ve experienced in the UK. I definitely do not attempt to speak for all people in a long distance relationship with someone based in Lagos, and contrary to any negative caricatures, I have personally witnessed loving, monogamous relationships in Lagos. It’s also worth noting that I’ve been in a number of complicated romantic situations with men based in London… however through observation and experience I have learned that the version of ‘complicated’ which I am currently navigating is quite specific to the context of heterosexual relationships in Lagos.

The truth is that gender and relationships have a very different significance within the Nigerian context. Lagos particularly can feel like some sort of portal where the rules and standards change for me, for better and for worse. The white gaze encourages us to hone in on the negative connotations to this, however my experience has demonstrated that there are a number of benefits which manifest practically in a myriad of ways. In addition to this, making the decision to date within this context has forced me to really reckon with what I need and value in romantic relationships. I’m continually learning about my non-negotiables.

There’s a version of stability, hustle and focus that attracts me to the man I’m with. Moreover, he consistently demonstrates an understanding of, as well as a shared commitment to, culture, community and family. These are things that people can develop anywhere in the world, however based on his orientation and views (which are inevitably influenced by the society in which he lives), there is a depth and richness to this that I personally have never experienced before.

Learning how to manoeuvre a long distance relationship can be really challenging and in my case requires regularly going back to the drawing board. I am committed to the bigger picture which remains consistent even when the intricate details of our day to day may change. It is this ethos which creates more space for me to exist within a polyamorous setup. Communication is central to navigating my relationship, which is why I value a platform like Ding. Now I’m back in the UK, I can instantly top up his data which makes maintaining regular communication across oceans simpler than it once was.

Polyamory is not a requirement for long distance relationships, nor is it exclusive to British/Nigerian relationships; however I do feel there is a particular expression where these two things meet and I welcome more opportunities to further interrogate this. I feel the need to write this because I am afraid that people may pass judgement before they’ve earnestly sought to understand me and my instinct is to defend myself.

Growing up in London and developing particular social norms when it comes to relationships means I am constantly exploring a plethora of thoughts and emotions about my love life. I must admit that part of that is based on how I want to be perceived by others. Shame and fear tell me not to explore this publicly, that to be perceived in a light I am proud of, I must only speak openly about the straightforward elements of my life and have secret conversations behind closed doors about some of the more complex truths. In this instance, I can see the way that culture of silence does not serve me.

I acknowledge that polyamory in the Nigerian context is rooted in patriarchy and disproportionately benefits men; I’m also under no illusion that patriarchy isn’t woven into some of the cultural norms which my relationship upholds. I guess, what I am seeking to explore here is both the living reality of the ways I find comfort in or benefit from this as well as whether given this history there are ways I, as a Nigerian-British woman, can feel truly liberated within a polyamorous, long distance relationship.

With Ding you can instantly top-up any number on any network, anywhere in the world. The platform is secure, simple to use and Ding covers more countries than anyone else, helping the diaspora to always stay connected.

This month, you can get 25% off your first top-up with Ding, with the code ‘TRYDING25’ at checkout.