Life gives us unexpected lessons at every turn — which means that even your ideal relationship could turn sour. Maybe you’ve had to accept a tough reality: She said she was unhappy and left me. Now what?

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Experts say women are more likely to be unhappy in relationships, especially marriages.

Regardless, I hope my story can help you. Though I’ve been with my partner Tom for almost nine years, I went through a period where I became somewhat unhappy with our relationship and actually took a break from it to find myself.

I went on a 40-day vision quest this summer, where I traveled to Colorado and Wisconsin. During this time, Tom and I were broken up, though we both hoped to get back together and I didn’t move anything out of our home.

Sometimes other people’s stories can help us figure out our own lives. So I’m going to share the reasons why I left and how we navigated the process.

If She Said She Was Unhappy, Consider These Factors

This isn’t meant to be a prescription for happiness. But working through these issues did help Tom and I. Hopefully they can make a difference for you, too.

See if any of these factors could have contributed to your girlfriend saying she was unhappy. (As they say in recovery, simply take whatever you can use and leave the rest.)

1. Losing the “Spark”

she said she was unhappy and left me

In long-term relationships, it’s easy to stop planning date nights and to take your partner for granted, especially when you’re around each other 24/7. Mystery is the key to sexual tension and it’s especially hard to have any during Corona, when you’re living and working together. This is a common problem that probably everyone struggles with.

To combat this, I enrolled in my own sex coaching program to learn more about my own sexuality and to explore strategies that could improve desire with my partner. I also learned that I needed to communicate more with my partner about my sexual wants and needs. Some of my wants were scary to talk about, as I’d always been taught to hide that part of myself.

But through coaching and working with a counselor, I was able to gain enough confidence to articulate the things I liked, even though I knew they weren’t the same as what he liked. This helped us to begin exploring new avenues that made intimacy exciting again.

It’s a continual work-in-progress but in my life, I’ve found that when things aren’t working and I don’t know how to fix them, then it’s time to call in the experts. If you’re interested in learning more about sex coaching, check out this article.

2. Fear of Commitment

Women can fear commitment just like many men do.

Coming from a divorced household, I’m terrified of getting divorced myself. That said, I’m almost nine years into my relationship. I’m also 34, the age when it’s nearing the end for baby-making. Fear of divorce paired with impending motherhood is a lot to stomach all at once. I know in a lot of ways, it’s do-or-die time.

The fear of failure makes me want to run away from the possibility of it, which is a huge reason (subconsciously speaking) why I left. Luckily, years of working with my own team of coaches and counselors helped me to identify my inner saboteur. Finally, I saw more clearly what my subconscious mind has been doing.

Tom has also been really wonderful. He’s a rock. His support and secure attachment kept us afloat throughout the process. Even while I “acted out” all over the place, he held the vision of what he believed we could be. This helped me to see it, too.

If you’re dating a woman who’s doing what I did, hold tight. Keep holding that vision of what you believe you can be together. Demonstrate secure attachment, communicate openly and honestly, and let her know when she’s hurting you. Try to understand what’s happening for her and if possible, go to couples counseling.

3. The Ex

When her ex comes back into the picture, she may suddenly say she’s unhappy in the relationship. But it could be happening for a reason.

Example: A man I dated right before Tom suddenly reached out one day. Back when I first met this man, it was love at first sight. So when he came back, I was torn. Why would the universe send someone I loved so strongly back while I was in a relationship with someone else?

My guilt over loving more than one man was a huge reason why I temporarily ended things with Tom. I felt as though the feelings I was having were “wrong.” However, in the end, the process taught me that I’m polyamorous. Realizing this truth was difficult because my partner wasn’t and didn’t want to be. So I’m still learning how to navigate that reality. It will likely continue to evolve in order to help me better understand myself.

Needless to say, things with the ex who came back unraveled quickly. It reminded me why we’d never been able to make it work long-term in the past.

But here’s the thing. Communicating with my ex, rather than just blocking the connection, allowed me to compare him with Tom. That made me feel so much more grateful for the kind and thoughtful things Tom does, and for the way he makes me feel safe, loved, and supported. I took these things for granted before.

If you’re going through this with your girlfriend, be patient. Understand that she might need to explore this old relationship in order to learn more about herself and fully choose you. So give her a little space to do it.

4. Predictability

Predictability in a relationship is fine for someone who hates change or prefers a ton of structure, but it can wreak havoc on the adrenaline junkie who looks for novelty at every turn — or the addict who always looks to escape.

This was definitely me. I live for the thrill of the adrenaline rush. I love that feeling of risk and the reward that comes with it. Probably because I grew up in a chaotic environment and I learned that risk and uncertainty were part of life. They seem to have become woven into my DNA.

Corona made our life more predictable than usual in a lot of ways. The combination of being with the same person for so long, paired with the monotony of Corona-living made the thrill-seeker in me want to shake things up.

As I’ve been going through recovery, I also learn that I love to escape. Drinking used to be my escape, but I’d stopped and no longer had a way to deal with uncomfortable feelings. So when the predictability of our relationship became too much to handle, I escaped to Colorado to avoid dealing with it.

If you’re dating a woman with a drinking problem or any other kind of addiction, ask her to go to a meeting. Do it repeatedly. It’s hard for us to hear when we’re deep in the addiction, but say it anyway.

Tom did this, and I went into recovery. Tom and I also got sponsors. Tom’s sponsor explained that it was very normal for me to want to escape the relationship and suggested that Tom hold on until I’d been sober at least 90 days. My sponsor also advised that I not make any huge changes in the first year of recovery.

This advice was really priceless. Without it, I don’t know if we would’ve gotten back together. So, if you’re in a similar situation, get help. It’s not an easy process but it is worthwhile.

5. Feeling Trapped

If your girlfriend said she was unhappy and left, she might have felt trapped.

Feeling trapped can happen at any point in a relationship. It happened for Tom when I first moved into his apartment. It happened the first week we got our new puppy. It’s likely to happen again when we get married and have kids. Feeling trapped is common and normal. It’s just another thing you have to work through.

I didn’t realize this at first, which was another reason why I left. I was afraid of the idea of being “trapped” with someone, especially after discovering that I’m a polyamorous person in a monogamous relationship.

But this isn’t a reason to abort the relationship; it’s just an opportunity to create a new framework for what you do have.

When Tom feels trapped, we strategize ways for him to find his own space, take a trip with the guys, get away for a few days, etc. I stopped feeling as trapped when I shared my discovery that I was polyamorous with Tom.

Being able to communicate, especially about those challenging topics, can be a game-changer. But it’s still not easy. We’ve had several arguments. The good news is, they always allow us to better understand each other and to explore new ways of handling things.

So, don’t be afraid if she says she feels trapped. Communicate how you’re feeling while doing your best to give her the space you need.

6. Loss of Identity

Especially if you’ve been with your partner for a long time, you can almost start to forget who you are as an individual. Maybe that’s why she said she was unhappy and left you.

This was the case for me. Tom and I had spent so many years together that the music we listened to, the movies we watched, the time we went to bed — all of it — had become a sort of compromise. We’d learned how to accommodate each together so well that it had become unclear who we were separately.

Taking time apart allowed me to see what I did on my own. And the ways I spent my time were largely different when I was alone. This helped me to remember what was important to me and why I’d gotten into the relationship in the first place.

It’s important to maintain our own sovereignty in romantic relationships. If a woman you’re dating or in a relationship with is asking for this, honor it. It will be good for both of you.

7. Self-Doubt

If the woman you’re dating often asks you why you love her, that can be a sign that she’s started to feel unworthy of your love. She may even decide she’s unhappy and leave because of it.

While it has nothing to do with you, it can be unsettling, because you know you can’t “prove” your love.

This one is tough for me to admit, but one of the reasons I left was because I didn’t feel I deserved Tom. In recovery, you uncover a lot of less-than-ideal truths about yourself. You face all the wrongs we’ve done and the bad behavior you’ve made our partners put up with. Once you see that, it can be difficult to understand why someone else would love you.

But self-discovery often brings up periods of self-doubt. Eventually, you come to realize your negative thoughts about yourself aren’t true. So expect some turbulence if she says she’s unhappy. Give her time and space to work through the steps while showing her that you love her.

Even If She Said She Was Unhappy, Don’t Give Up

Hearing someone you care about say they’re unhappy and want to leave can be heartbreaking. It can drive you to extremes.

So here’s my final advice: Don’t be a doormat… but don’t give up on love, either. Especially if you’ve been together through thick and thin already. You can bring your relationship back to a better place. You also can choose to let it go, but only you know in your heart what is right. Trust your feelings.

If you do decide to get back out there and date (or, if you’re still looking for that special someone) do reach out to me. While I can’t promise a perfect relationship, we can find the perfect person for you.