Life on My Own Terms: 15 Nigerian Women Share Their Experiences Living Alone

In a society deeply rooted in tradition and communal living, breaking away to embrace solitude can be a remarkable act of self-discovery. Here are 15 remarkable stories from women who have boldly chosen to live life on their own terms.

Life on My Own Terms: 15 Nigerian Women Share Their Experiences Living Alone

In a society deeply rooted in tradition and communal living, breaking away to embrace solitude can be a remarkable act of self-discovery. I asked Nigerian women who live alone to share with me their experiences so far. From the wealth of responses received from remarkable Nigerian women who have boldly chosen to live life on their own terms, I selected the 15 stories you are about to read. These women and their experiences, shared candidly and openly, offer a unique glimpse into the challenges and triumphs that come with the decision to to take charge of their lives and embrace independence.

1. I've been living alone for five years now. I experienced some discrimination initially, so I went for the tenant screening with a man for my recent apartment. I love the privacy that living alone gives me. I get paranoid when I can't find even a piece of clothing, so I like that my stuff doesn't go missing. I can be naked and clean whenever I want, especially at midnight when insomnia kicks in, watch any show I like no matter how weird, and have the confidence of knowing I always have somewhere to sleep no matter what. It can get ridiculously lonely sometimes, and I never feel 100% secure, no matter how many locks are on the door. Apart from changing my locks twice a year, the security at the gate and estate security, the only other security I have is God. When I moved in, I found a note under my door, "Will you fuck me? Yes/no'. I felt unsafe for a long time, but I also didn't raise any alarm about it out of fear of being victimized. For women planning to live alone, my advice is never to leave friends in your house, don't leave your key for anyone and don't give your address to men often. - Tomi, 29

2. This is my third year living alone. My favourite part of living alone is the freedom to understand and prioritize myself. Having no one to help me with zips and corsets is definitely one of my downsides of living alone. For my security, I invested heavily in double bolts and metal bars on all windows. I also change my locks every 6 months. One of the funniest experiences I've had is when a neighbour once made a funny comment on how I spend because I was always paying communal bills early, lol - Dolapo, 25

3. While I've been blessed to have never faced discrimination while house-hunting in my 3 years of renting, it's been a rollercoaster of experiences. In my former apartment, my landlord was very predatory. He once threw all my clothes on the floor because my cleaner refused to share her number. He sent me a text asking me to take over the role of the former female tenant who used to live in my house and sleep with him. After I turned down his VERY rude message, he asked me if I wouldn't sleep with him if he gave me money and why I'm asking like a saint that doesn't fuck. It felt so aggressive, and I felt very unsafe. He used to randomly burst into my house if I forgot to lock the doors, stand at my window when there was no light, and I had no choice but to open my curtains. I reported to his siblings and told them to stop him, or I'd have him arrested. A positive from living alone is that I've become very self-sufficient and can fix minor technical issues around the house. - Shellz, 26

4. I've had different experiences renting on the mainland and the island in Lagos. On the mainland, I had to lie that I was married and got my male friend to front as my husband before I could get my apartment. Surprisingly, I didn't face this when renting on the island. They were more particular about my source of income. They even visited my office to do background checks. I loveeeee my space. Knowing that you are not coming back home to meet your things out of place or a flatmate having a guest (especially when you are not in the mood), or the little fights and arguments over who should do what/pay for what is just bliss! I had a neighbour that was starting to move funny towards me. He kept inviting me to his apartment, and I kept making excuses. I eventually visited, but I was so uncomfortable. I just wanted him off my back without drama because he was technically my landlord (he sublet a portion of the apartment to me). I was worried that he would show up at my door or barge in because I suspected he might have a spare key. Thankfully, it didn't get to that point. - Iyawo, 25

5. The challenge I faced while house-hunting was being shown dirty, smelly, but EXPENSIVE houses. I've never experienced gender-based discrimination, but I know people who have. What helped a lot is that I am a lawyer, so I appear 'professional' to agents and landlords. I like that I am the madam of my place. I have my own rules and routines. I can do whatever I want. I can watch TV till 3 a.m. on the loudest volume. I can decide to sleep in till 1 p.m. on a Saturday. I can make Eba at 8 a.m. Being the number 1 ruler is top tier. I have been lucky security-wise. In my building, we are mostly all single women. I am more concerned about slipping in the bathroom or getting electrocuted indoors alone to be honest. - Olaide, 25

6. In my first apartment in 2019, my landlord didn't allow me to have guests because of the whole prejudice against women and having multiple partners. Of which, wetin consain him with my kpekus? In my current apartment, my neighbours call me Mrs because they can't simply wrap their heads around the fact that single women thrive. I love coming back home to my perfectly curated apartment. Being able to do everything naked is the hack against stress. I love slow, quiet mornings and even more quiet evenings. I love living alone. Luckily, I have never experienced intense security concerns because I've always opted to live in gated communities. But you see my neighbours (men obviously), they are red flags. The way they look at you, ehn, you will be concerned for your safety. I advise women who want to live alone to target homes in gated and secure communities when house-hunting. Nigeria is a mad place, so if you can lie about your status, lie. Your neighbours don't need to know the truth about you. - Mickey, 26

7.  I've been living alone for five years now. I've always been sort of independent, and I like having my own space, so choosing to live alone was a no-brainer. It gives me the freedom to do what I want to do when I want to. Thankfully, getting my apartment in Nigeria was easy. My biggest challenge is working with artisans or technicians and security concerns. I also feel unsafe sometimes, and I once had to call the estate security because someone was trying to get into my house. I have security cameras in my place, and I've chosen to only live in gated estates for extra security. I advise women to live alone because it's great for self-discovery. - Dani, 35

8.  I've lived alone for less than a year now. My landlord is a woman, so I had no issues with discrimination before getting my place. What I love the most about living alone is having a place for everything I own and not having to deal with people who pick up items and fail to return them to their rightful places. Having workmen in the house is a really big challenge, so I had to lay some ground rules for when that happens. One, I alert my security guards. Two, I call my partner and have him on speaker throughout, and I also leave my door wide open. - Frankie, 26

9. Finding an apartment was fairly hard because the apartments I viewed and discriminated against by the landlords were subpar anyway, so I wasn't phased. The landlords mostly wanted couples, claiming single women would bring men to their building or tenants from a particular tribe. I've had to deal with side-eyes from older married neighbours who are always exchanging glances when different cars (Uber oh) come to drop me. Bar the judgmental glances from older, ignorant neighbours; it's been a good experience so far. - Mo, 27

10. I've been living alone for six years. Finding apartments takes a lot of work, ngl. First, I'm not Yoruba. Add to that that I'm single without a man-in-waiting. I usually get my male friends to act as my partners to reduce back and forth with house owners. There is usually a different energy when a male party steps in. What do I love about living alone? I cry whenever I want, lol. I can actually hear myself think with no disruptions. To be safe, I try not to let random, strange people in my home and ensure cabs drop me a little distance away from home. I also don't let artisans in, except when I am with company. I advise women planning to take the leap to be careful who they squat. It can cause a whole lot of complications you really wouldn't want to deal with. - Anita, 30

11. I got my space within one week of house-hunting. My landlady is really nice, and I just renewed my rent for another year. I like that I meet my space the exact way I left it when I return from work. I have peace of mind and only have to worry about myself. For the negatives, I had a stranger who knew where I lived yell at me on the street because I refused to let him extort me. I was scared shitless for two weeks, but the incident did not repeat itself again. It was a horrid experience, though. It can also be really lonely sometimes. When I fell sick, I could barely take care of myself. I live in the same compound as my landlord and landlady, and they're very security conscious; however, I've had proper annoying neighbours with whom I share a fence, play loud music, leave their gen on at odd hours, and keep noisy pets. This nosy neighbour also bothered me for months whenever he smelled me cooking. I developed terrible anxiety because of him. I'd baulk at the sound of his voice even though he wasn't talking to me. I was happy when he moved. For women who are considering moving, please do it! It helps you understand yourself better, and you learn to have standards for how you want your space to be and the sort of people you entertain in your life. - Big N, 26

12. I've been living alone for a year and a half. Before I found my apartment, I experienced A LOT of discrimination and slutshaming. I even had to put a ring on my finger at some point because landlords do not want to rent to a single woman. My scariest experience so far has to be when I was being catcalled, and the perpetrator chased me all the way home. We didn't have a security guard then, but my neighbours helped when he attempted to enter the compound. That did not stop the harassment. He would come around often to look for me. I had to beg the landlady to get us a guard, which she did. My advice to women planning to live alone is never to tell men you live alone. Always say you have a roommate. - Nayoms, 23

13. I found apartment hunting to be quite tedious. The first agent I hired ignored everything I wanted and kept taking me to apartments rats would be disgusted to live in. Aside from that, I didn't experience any discrimination, or maybe I didn't notice. My family weren't pleased at first as I was expected to be married before moving out to live on my own. However, they came around. The peace and quiet of living alone is unmatched. You meet your things exactly how you arranged them. After a long day of dealing with overstimulating adult engagements, you can come home, crawl, and relax. It comes with its own challenges sha. Safety is number one. I never sleep without my tailoring scissors and pestle. They are always at arms reach. Sexual harassment is another challenge. Someone left condoms at my doorstep once. Another time, a neighbour came to hit on me in the wee hours of the night, but I told him off, and he's never done it again. All in all, I believe every woman should live alone at some point. It's freeing and an amazing way to learn about yourself. - Ethel, 29

14. I did encounter sexism from the first landlord whose house I wanted to rent. He claimed I would bring in men and doubted I'd be able to keep up with the rent. Living alone has made me more productive and attentive to myself and has given me enough time to catch up with friends and family in the diaspora. It does get lonely sometimes. There's a certain quietness and hyper-independence that comes with it. There's no one to help with anything; you have to keep a brave face on. I've also become extra security conscious, especially when I return at night, and the streets are super quiet and empty. I have my Uber wait with me till I enter the house. My protection is Jesus, though we have an electric fence and 2 security guards. Having to cook for yourself every day is also tiring. You'd go days without wanting to even eat what you cooked cos it's monotonous. You'd order in more than you realize, lol. I would advise women to have some time living alone before they marry. It helps you understand yourself and enforce boundaries properly against misogynistic people. - Sally, 30

15. I've only lived for six months. House hunting was hard. The issue of tribe came up a couple of times. Some landlords wanted to avoid renting their apartment to an Igbo person. The experience in itself has been good. The peace of mind that comes with living alone was actually what made me move out of my family house, and I'm getting that. I can now be lazy in peace, lol. I can now go out and come back anytime I want, even though I'm not the outgoing type. Most importantly, I'm now independent for the first time in my life. I've always wanted to be independent, so far, it's been an exciting ride. The first time I cried was when I returned from work after a stressful day, and there was no one to help me unzip my dress. I later found a way around it when I was done crying, but I've never worn that dress since then. Also, there were other moments when I cried out of boredom and loneliness. It's not easy, especially with the economic situation of the country, but if you're really willing to do it, then go for it, you'll thank yourself later for doing so. - Nneoma, 27

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