On-screen couple, Iyke and Florence Okechukwu, talk to PUNCH about their life as a real-life couple plus the joy of their two-year-old marriage.
How long have you been married?
Iyke: We got married in April 2013.
How did you meet?
Iyke: We attended the same school, University of Lagos. We both studied Theatre Arts, but we were not friends. I knew her because she was the best actress in her set. She was two years ahead of me. She knew all my friends and I knew hers but we did not become friends until we met on the set of Tinsel.
Florence: I knew his face because the department was quite small and there was no way you wouldn’t know every student.
Did you hit it off as soon as you met on the set of Tinsel?
Florence: At the initial stage, what we had was more of a friendship. He became my confidant and I could tell him anything. It had nothing to do with the fact that we play a couple on Tinsel. We were first of all good friends before we thought of dating.
Iyke: She was easy to talk to in addition to being smart and intelligent. At a point, I realised she would make a good wife, but I was not bold enough to ask her out. I woke up one morning and realised it would be foolhardy of me to let her go.
Florence: I had to help the situation because he was not forthcoming. I told him my mum wanted to pair me with a guy who lived in Switzerland and I might have to leave Tinsel and Nigeria. He ignored what I said and began to talk about something else. I asked if he heard me and said he was too jealous to answer my question. That was how I got him.
Did playing a married couple in Tinsel enhance your feelings for each other?
Iyke: People always confuse our roles with our real lives. Chuks and Ene are different from Iyke and Florence. We have separate lives. On set, we were actors and off set, we were friends.
Were you worried about what your colleagues would think about your love affair?
Florence: They had always thought we were an item because we were that close as friends. When we started dating, they did not think too much of it because they could not tell the difference. They mixed it up so much that when we decided to get married, it was like a natural progression.
How long did you date for?
Iyke: We dated for about two or three years before I popped the question.
How were you able to keep your relationship from the press?
Iyke: Everybody around us just saw Chuks and Ene. It was easy for us to disguise our relationship. Nobody knew when we started dating or got serious. It hit everybody and surprised them.
What qualities do you admire in each other?
Iyke: She is a smart person and has a warm heart. You can’t help but love her. Also, she has a brilliant sense of humour.
Florence: He is kind, gentle, selfless and a good listener.
How did you propose to her?
Iyke: When you are about to propose to your girlfriend and she knows what you are about to do, it spoils the fun. She did not see the ring coming, but she knew I was going to buy the ring. The proposal was very informal, I knelt down and she said yes.
Iyke: The union was blessed by God before we even thought about getting married. Our families were supportive. I am from Abia State and she is from Imo State. Her family is similar to mine.
Florence: I think the fact that we play a couple helped. Even before we started dating, my father-in-law’s friend said Iyke must marry me. When I told my parents about his proposal, they accepted and prayed for us.
Is being married to someone in your industry convenient?
Iyke: Our industry is just like any other industry. The only difference is that we are in the limelight and everybody knows us. Bankers marry themselves too, but you just have to understand how to manage and separate your professional life from reality. You have to be able to draw the line between work and home, what you will tell people and what you won’t. If you let people into your marriage, they will make it their business. If you can draw that line, you can make it work.
Do you get jealous of each other’s fans?
Iyke: The friendship we had before we started dating and afterwards helped us build the trust. We can tell ourselves anything. The things I know about her makes me trust her so trust is not an issue between us.
Florence: The best checks and balances you can have in your relationship is to tell your husband about all the guys you meet. It censors both of you and makes him feel secure. It is good to be upfront.
What are some of the challenges you experienced in your marriage?
Iyke: We are blessed because God gave us some knowledge before we started dating. If you are true and sincere to your partner, a lot of things will happen. Some guys cheat because they are not comfortable or do not feel loved. If you believe that you are friends first, you can tell her anything.
Florence: He apologises first.
What are some of the things she does that gets you upset?
Iyke: She has stopped quite a few but they are minor things I am able to forgive and we laugh about it.
If you had the opportunity to change anything about him, what would it be?
Florence: Nothing, he is just right for me.
How do you celebrate special days?
Iyke: My birthday was three days ago and I was blown away by what she did. She gave me a cake that looked like a clapperboard. She invited family and friends to celebrate with me.
How do you spend time as a couple?
Iyke: We love to spend time alone in the house. We are more of indoor people. When we go out, we watch movies, hang with friends or go to the beach.
Do you operate a joint account?
Iyke: We have joint and personal accounts. We know how much we have in our individual accounts.
Is your marriage on set different from reality?
Florence: I don’t know how it happens but it happens effortlessly when we are on set. We just get into character but notwithstanding; Chuks is totally different from Iyke.
What advice will you give to celebrities who are married?
Iyke: They should draw that line between their private and professional lives and make it as thick as possible. Publicity is part of our industry and we are in the public eye most of the time. You have to know what to tell the public and what not to. If you do not censor information, you are inviting the public to be a part of your life. Define what you put out on social media. If they do that and rely on each other’s love and trust, it will work.