1. Communication Is Key
This sounds cliche, but I really do think this is a major one. You should always feel comfortable talking about how you feel and what you want. There may be times where you will have to deal with the uncomfortable conversations such as, "What are we?" and "Where do we want this to go?". Or maybe your partner has done something that really upset you and you'd rather let it slide than start an argument. But these talks are necessary. Understanding where the other person is coming from will give you clarity and save you from disappointment later on when you realize you are not on the same page.
2. Don't Use Them As an Instrument for Your Expectations
This one's like a continuation of #2. It's so so important to talk about what each other's expectations are. And once you figure out what they are, realize that you can't force them to be what you want them to. If for example, you want a serious, committed relationship, and they are only looking for something casual, you can't make them become a relationship person. Don't start fantasizing things way down the line, like marriage and kids. You can't ask them for what they don't want to give you. If a person decides to change and your expectations now align, that's great for you, but it has to be on their own accord.
3. Take Off the Rose Colored Glasses
Seeing everything through rose colored glasses makes your relationship seem better than what it actually is. When you are absolutely smitten with someone, your perception of them can be different from who they really are. Love is blinding, and it makes you overlook the bad parts of them. You choose to see what you want to see and it creates an illusion of something absolutely perfect.
No relationship is perfect, and you should be understanding of little flaws, but you shouldn't ignore the red flags. Do they make you laugh? Do they know how to make you feel better when you're down? At face value, these questions don't seem like the most important factor, but it really boils down to the question of whether or not they truly understand you and connect with you on a deeper level. No matter how perfect in every other way you think they are, you'll always feel like a little something is missing and you'll be left trying to convince yourself everything is good. And you should never have to convince yourself of anything, you should be sure.
4. Don't Use How Long You've Been Together As A Reason to Stay
It's scary to call it off when you've devoted so much time and effort into a person. But that shouldn't be the reason why you choose to keep going. If there's no other reason to keep trying besides the fact that you've been together for x amount of years, consider moving on. If you aren't happy now, chances are you won't be happy later.
5. Be With Someone Who Lifts You Up, Not Anchor You Down
You should be with someone who supports your personal goals and ambitions, and is happy to see you succeed. Don't be with someone who will only hold you back in life due to selfish reasons. Life is more than your relationship and you should not be told what you can and can't do with your own life. A healthy relationship requires a fair amount of independence as well.
6. Let It Go
When you first come out of a relationship, you may feel an array of emotions – confused, angry, crushed. No matter how badly it ended, you eventually need to accept it and move on. There's no point in staying upset or holding grudges. I honestly don't have the mental/emotional capacity to go on hating someone or being hung up on someone. It's just so exhausting to do so, when you can easily let it go. Harboring negative feelings won't do you any good. The only person you're hurting is yourself.
So these are just a few bits and pieces of knowledge I've learned from the past 5 years or so. Now in my 20's and about to graduate college, I'm really interested to see what comes next. I'm excited and ready for all the possibilities of where life will take me.
When all is said and done, don't see it as time wasted; instead, view it as wisdom gained. And when you do eventually find the next one, don't lose sight of all that you have learned. Remember to stay true to yourself.