Do you find yourself jumping from relationship to relationship every couple of months or every year? You may be wondering why your relationships don’t get past the honeymoon phase and into a deeper lasting relationship. To really understand how to make a relationship last, you have to be receptive to opening your mind to different ideas and ways of being in a relationship. 

I had a chance to sit down with an amazing woman who offered some really good dating advice. She’s been happily married for over 20 years and has great insight into what it takes to go the distance.

Below are her three best self-help tips on how to make a relationship last:

  • Love and know yourself FIRST before committing to anyone!!!! I wish I could have been the person I am now when I got married in 2002. I know who I am, what I want, and what I will NOT tolerate. We get along sooooo much better now because I am more confident and just have such a good understanding of who Kawanda is.  I did not know that at 22 years old.
  • Establish yourself first. Because I had kids right after marriage, my career had a VERY slow start. I was fortunate to stay at home when my girls were young and I am grateful but my career did take a hit. I encourage you to establish your independence and build your profession.
  • Don’t settle! Know what your deal breakers are, what you will and will not tolerate. I feel like a lot of relationships fail because people start compromising and settling just for the sake of companionship. Make sure you are able to check the basic boxes…are they educated or have employment, religious beliefs, and general belief system. I love that my husband values family. He also has a personal relationship with God. Those characteristics were very important to me.

Keep reading this interview to find out more about her journey, how she met her husband and how they overcame challenges. 

how to make a relationship last

Photo by Luis Quintero

Tell me a little about yourself

My name is Kawanda.  I am 45 years old from a small town called Fernandina Beach FL.  I am the first in my family to attend college and graduate with a bachelor’s and master’s degree.  The oldest, of my two younger brothers, is the second in my family to attend college and earn a degree.  I lived in Fernandina Beach Fl until I graduated from high school and began my journey to Tallahassee Florida to attend the best HBCU there is Florida A&M University!  

I grew up in a strict household. My biological father was killed when I was very young.  I was born in Dania Beach, Florida while my mom attended Dade community college until she got pregnant with me. When she learned about the pregnancy, she took me to Fernandina for my grandparents to help raise me. 

Because my mom was abused by my biological father, the move became permanent. My brothers and I grew up in a very religious household. We attended mid-week church service, Sunday school, regular morning and evening services.

My mom remarried when I was about 7 years old to my dad Paul Gilyard. He raised me and was a huge support system in my life until he died just months before my college graduation in September of 2000.  This was a very tough time for me. My grandparents, also VERY instrumental people in my life earlier on, eventually passed during the time my family and I lived in Boulder Colorado.

My grandparents pretty much raised me. My grandparents helped shape the woman I am today. My step dad eventually became a minister which meant more church for my brothers and I.  

I earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida A&M University in 2001 in Computer Information Systems. 

From there I worked in the computing field for about 2 years.  When my husband was awarded the opportunity to attend University of Colorado at Boulder to earn a doctoral degree, we took it. 

That allowed me to explore a different career path as the computer science industry was unfulfilling for me.  Much later, I earned a Masters degree in counseling from Mercy College. At the time, my plan was to pursue secondary education administration but life had other plans. 

How long have you been married?

I have been married for 21 years.  My husband and I met during my undergraduate journey at FAMU. He actually served as a tutor for a tough programming course back then, COBOL.  Yes, that’s right COBOL.

I was introduced to him by another peer at FAMU who was also just as passionate about computing. He ended up being the best man at our wedding and one of our closest friends to date.

After successfully passing the course with his help, I asked if I could treat him to dinner or a movie to thank him.  He refused my offer to pay and insisted that we go “dutch”  his exact words!  Upon arriving, he realized he left his wallet at home so I ended up treating him anyway.  Oh, and did I mention I drove us to the movies.

This is a very important detail I did not want to leave out.  Needless to say, after 21 years, he did NOT pay me back for that movie. 😀.  This is a funny story that we share to this day. From that point on, we started dating and have been together ever since.  That was the beginning of my junior year at FAMU.

Do you have children? If yes, how did having children change the dynamics of your relationship? 

We have 2 beautiful daughters ages 20 and 18.  Auria is at FL State University where she majors in International Affairs.  Anylah (18) attends Columbia University where she majors in computer science. We are very blessed to have such motivated and determined young ladies.  They are doing very well and we are super proud of them.

It changes EVERYTHING 😂 Simply put…when you have kids, kids take the priority. Of course you have to maintain employment to provide for said kids, but outside of work, kids are the priority. It is crucial that newlyweds have a period of time without kids.

Even if its just a year or two, time with no kids is highly recommended.  I know there were times where my husband and I both felt neglected. We felt our lives were work/school and the kids. 

How did you know your Husband was the one?

My husband is a genuine and straight up guy. His passion for computer science was evident so when we met in CIS, he was very willing to assist me with the harder programming courses.  I was drawn to his passion and enthusiasm to ensure I was successful in passing the courses. His intelligence was obvious but it was not until we actually started dating that I was able to peel back some layers and really get to know him. We both enjoyed each other’s company and found it difficult to spend time apart. It’s funny because my friends began to express their disappointment about my absence. We were inseparable and my friendships suffered a little bit because of that. 

I was attracted to his outlook on life. His ambition and drive was super attractive. He pushed me way beyond limits I would never imagine I was capable of. 

He was chivalrous but more importantly he treated me with respect.  I knew he was someone I wanted in my life for a long time.  After a few months of dating, he felt it necessary to tell me he “liked” me (exact words) outside of my car at the tech building one afternoon.  It was the sweetest thing because he was extremely nervous.But the genuineness of it was what completely sucked me in. So I was like “I like you too” 😂     

How long did you date before marriage?

the best dating advice

3 years together before marriage.  We dated for 2 years, engaged for 1 year. 

My husband and I were very young when we got married.  In fact, I was 22 and had only been out of college one year. The very next year we had our first child. I was 7 months pregnant on our first anniversary.

I believe our challenges arose from the fact that we were so young, and we still had a lot of learning about ourselves to do. Against the advice of his aunt and uncle at the time, who encouraged us to wait, we got married anyway. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have no regret in my choice, but only in the timing. I truly believe waiting until my late 20’s or early 30’s would have given me the time I needed for self-discovery and to establish independence. Waiting, in my opinion, probably would have prevented a major hurdle in our 21 year marriage.

How to make a relationship last when challenges arise

What bothers you in the relationship?

Outside of leaving clothes in the same spot he took them off in or leaving dishes in the sink, I’d say the only thing that I have had to adjust to is his lack of ability to show emotion. Sometimes he is unable to express his feelings in a healthy manner. He is the type to keep his feelings hidden but act on them. He has become more vulnerable with me over the years and that has helped our marriage a lot.

What bothers him in the relationship?

He would like me to improve my money management skills 😀 He says I like to spend but not manage it…whatever that means.  I will admit his only problem with me always stems around money! He says I like to spend and not save. I do agree I could improve in this area.

Money has been a constant area in need for improvement throughout our marriage. It took a very long time to get to a happy medium.  We participated in the Dave Ramsey financial peace series. That helped a lot. The communication surrounding the topic of money is A LOT better.  We are still a work in progress, but things are in a MUCH better place. Communication is key! 

What’s your favorite thing to do with your Husband and family?

Travel!!!! My husband and I have such a good time together. We love to eat and try new foods and drinks. We love to experience new things together.

My favorite thing to do with the family is to also travel. One of our BEST vacations was to Veil Colorado skiing. We plan to ski every holiday season now.

If you could rewind time, would you have done anything differently and why? 

As I mentioned above, the only regret I have is the time frame in which we decided to get married. I know we were probably too young to get married. So if I could rewind time, I would have paused the engagement and continued to date and focused on my career.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I know this couple well. Have known her husband since he was in high school. He is an amazing man who chose an amazing woman. As a couple, they are beautiful. At times either one could have chosen to leave the marriage, however, he has a praying mother (her mother in law). This is a Love Story.

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