6 Young Nigerians On How Growing Older Affected Their Perception Of Love

how parental love affects us as adults

Regardless of the hyper-commercialisation of Valentine’s Day that has occurred over the last decade due to humanity’s ongoing pivot to digital tools of communication and amplification, it is hard to escape the sentiment behind the day whether it is being celebrated in the context of agape, eros, ludus, or philia love. Some might even say that humans are made – and socialised –  to love in certain ways whether it is the love of self, longstanding love, or a deep love for family. 

Part of growing up is learning the patterns that define our lives and seeing what type of love we are expressing in our day-to-day life; similarly, growing up Valentine 2022 is as good a time as any to cast minds back and look at the different ways that our understanding and interactions with love has evolved. To get some answers, we had a little chat with members of The NATIVE team as well as members of our wider community. 

How did you understand love growing up?

Judith: I understood love growing up as a deep feeling that should be cherished between two people and to keep it sacred as long as it should between couples.  Love so far is not a feeling, but something that should be built on and should be afforded the attention and other ingredients that makes it worthwhile.

Emmanuel: A lot of the love we felt growing up as young Nigerians was couched in provision. If you had everything you needed, you were loved. This is mostly how I understand it. There were few emotional touchstones, but I also grew up in a large family so everything just rubbed off somehow. Sometimes there was warmth.  

Chibuzo: As a young child my opinions on love were shaped by teachings in Sunday School,  my parents and a smattering of Disney animations. I understood love as the warmth I felt inside when someone showed care or when I cared deeply about someone. When I was eight years old, I remember one afternoon when my brother (he’s three years older) came home crying, someone had hit him—a neighbour. I remember asking him with so much anger “Who hit you, just tell me”. The dude who hit him was like 14 years old, I remember bursting out of the room, racing to ‘go get’ the dude who hit him. When I got to the guy, I was taken aback by his height, he was like twice my height, after threatening and raining curses on the dude, he just burst into laughter and apologised—That’s how I used to be with those I loved. What I felt inside used to move me to do the unthinkable. 

Levi: Growing up, the word LOVE in my opinion was overused, even till now I think. Over time, I’ve come to understand that love isn’t just about butterflies or whatever people say – it’s a feeling, a feeling of deep understanding and utmost care and affection for someone or a thing. 

Enioluwafe: Love to me, was what I saw between my parents. I always felt the genuine love they had for each other and for us (the children) through the laughter and care they exhibited. Also, I was exposed to a lot of Disney movies growing up so I had that Disney definition of love where it was cute and happy and joyous. It was all very surface level though. I don’t think I fully understood the concept, just the idea of it.

Wonu: Growing up, I got to understand a lot of things early as I grew up with a single mother and my grandparents. Love was always about being with family and being there for family at every given opportunity and this shaped me in such a way that when I love, I love with everything. 

Eniola: I mostly thought about love in a familial and religious context. I never thought too deeply about it because I thought it was expected of me to love my family and God.


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Has that perception changed? If so, how?

Judith: NO, the perception hasn’t changed so far. But what I would say is LOVE in now in our present times has been watered down into something that isn’t real, just a fiction of the mind telling you how it should be. Traditionally speaking, it’s just how it should be that’s why my perception hasn’t changed. 

Emmanuel: As I grow, I learn that love could be ‘cheap’. It doesn’t just provide but cares. And throughout my relationships, I try to keep a certain degree of sensitivity. To be thoughtful about stuff. 

Chibuzo: I’m twenty-one now and all I can say is “Life and love have shown me pepper”. Maybe I’m just being too extra because to be fair, I haven’t experienced a lot of heartbreaks so far. But I think I’m more circumspect, I understand the difference between love, lust, and infatuation. I also understand that love doesn’t isn’t a two-way switch, it exists on a proverbial analog scale—There are levels to love—you know how the level of heat a pressing iron produces is determined by an analog rotating dial? That’s how I understand love to be now—the degree of love people have towards someone or something varies. Sometimes I understand that someone loves me but that they don’t love me to the extent that maybe I want at the time and that often determines my willingness to commit to a relationship. I find this profound because people often ask “Do you love me” but almost no one asks “How much do you love me”.

Levi: I would say it has really, growing up and being in a committed relationship for five years now has given me a different perspective to love. And to be honest, love is cheap – but, to love honestly and be loved wholeheartedly. nothing in the world beats that, well except a shit load of money. 

Enioluwafe: I think the word I’d use is deepened. I definitely have a better understanding of what love is. From relationships with my friends (which to me has been the purest exhibition of love) to romantic relationships and familial relationships. It is still joyous and happy and is about care. The world has not done enough damage to me not to be optimistic about love. (Christ, I sound like a proper romantic; ew.)

Wonu: Not really, to be honest, now I just love but with more boundaries. I grew up understanding love because of how my mum and grandma taught me to love but I’m also more intentional with how I love anyone or anything. I’ve grown to understand the concept of love and day in day out, I seem to understand it even more.

Eniola: Yes, my understanding of love has broadened quite a bit. I love people that aren’t my family and I’m mostly indifferent about god. I love and appreciate my parents more now, I think most of the ”love” I had for them before was simply because they provided for me but as I got older, I started to see them as individuals just trying their best like everyone else.


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What sort of love appeals to you now?

Emmanuel: Soft, intentional, playful love. Love that sees through the fake smiles and asks, “What’s wrong?” Love that can be immersed in play and abandon, that doesn’t care much for what other people think. It’s a bit hard coming by this love in contemporary Nigeria but I’m utterly convinced it’s out there. Somehow, we’ll find it. 

Judith: Intentional love, honest actions and words, and love that’s about me (obviously reciprocated) that shows me that is all I need. I have known myself to be needy and set aside insecurities and all but that has shown me love that is worth every attention. Also, when both parties are open to each other about their secrets and all. My type of love to be honest is the “Bonnie and Clyde” love, to always do things together, conspire, sleuth, and above all to be honest to each other, the type that seduces you to be committed completely. 

Chibuzo: I don’t think I have a particular type of love that appeals to me now, I just really like it when I know someone has my back. 

Levi: I really don’t have a way love appeals to me, I feel that the more intentional you are about things and how honest you can be in whatever relationship it is you’re in can propagate your relationship you don’t have to love me back for me to love you. I try to be kind because everyone is fighting one hard battle or the other. 

Enioluwafe: Honest, intentional love I think. I don’t want to think too much about what I say or who I am around you if we love each other. Ease, companionship, and like I said before, a friend. I think we underrate the importance of having a friend you can talk to any time, no matter the season or topic. So yeah, these are definitely things I unintentionally look for in a partner.

Wonu: Right now, intentional love. The kind of love that you don’t need to labor for, it’s just right. The kind of love that makes you warm and safe, yeah, there’s nothing that matters to me more than intentional love, being with someone that you can refer to as your better half; a companion. 

Eniola: Something soft, sweet, and affectionate without secrets and judgment. I’ve been very guarded in my relationships and I didn’t even know I could be affectionate until recently and it felt freeing, I’d like to explore that. Life is hard and having your person makes it less daunting sometimes. 

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