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You’re with a woman, and things are getting hot and heavy. But wait… she’s not your girlfriend! Then you wake up, heart still racing.

What does this mean? You’re about to find the answer.

Here are 18 possible explanations if you had a dream you cheated on your girlfriend.

The most common reasons for dreaming about cheating on your girlfriend

There are many reasons you could dream you cheated on your girlfriend. Let’s start with the 5 most common ones.

1) It’s a memory with unprocessed feelings attached

A simple explanation for this dream is that it’s based on a memory. Perhaps you’ve cheated on an ex or your current girlfriend in the past.

Certified dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg points out that infidelity is especially difficult to heal from: “Even if it has been years or decades since the transgression, the emotional scar often remains.”

She goes on to say that you may be having these dreams because something in your life is triggering a feeling of guilt. This is the emotion most commonly associated with cheating.

But of course, you might have other bottled up emotions tied to the experience. For example, you might be afraid that you’ll end up cheating again, or feel angry at yourself for having done it in the first place.

Whatever the case, if you still have unprocessed feelings about what you’ve done, and you’re not dealing with them in real life, they will seep into your dreams.

What to do about it

If your dreams uncover unprocessed feelings about cheating on someone in the past, you could consider journaling or therapy. If you’re still with this person, you’ll need to work together to rebuild trust.

On the other hand, if something in your current relationship is triggering guilt, you could talk with your girlfriend about what’s bothering you.

The key lies in working through the emotions causing the dream.

2) Your parent or someone else close to you cheated

Our own memories can make up the substance of our dreams — but we can also embody an experience we only heard about.

You’ll know if this is the right interpretation if you wake up with the thought, “this is like what my mother/father did.”

This interpretation is put forward by Dr. Deirdre Leigh Barrett, assistant professor of psychology who teaches courses on dreaming at Harvard University.

As she explains, you may be identifying with one of your parents — and possibly literally with a propensity to cheat on your partner.

Does this mean you’ll follow in their footsteps?

Of course not!

This kind of dream is much more about your relationship with this parent than your relationship with your girlfriend.

What to do about it

Your subconscious mind took a tentative step towards identifying with someone who cheated, and now your waking mind must walk the rest of the mile.

Explore what emotions and thoughts the dream uncovers about this person:

  • What’s your relationship with them like?
  • Does their cheating change the way you see them?
  • How do you feel about what they did?

If you dig deeper, these dreams can be a catalyst to working through unresolved issues in your relationships.

3) You feel sexually dissatisfied

Dreams can have all sorts of outlandish explanations – but they can also be exactly what they seem.

Clinical psychologist Dr. John Mayer explains:

“Sex dreams about cheating on your partner are common in relationships where there are sexual problems, sexual dysfunction, and even non-sexual conflicts and dysfunctions.”

In some way you don’t feel fulfilled in your relationship, so your mind is creating fantasies. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you should cheat, or that you can’t get what you want from your relationship.

In fact, Dr. Mayer points out that these dreams are positive in some ways because they allow your desires to be explored in a way that doesn’t require actual infidelity.

What to do about it

Think about the particularities of your dream:

  • Where was it?
  • How were you feeling?
  • Who was the woman?
  • What exactly did you do?

If you felt especially drawn to some details, this could point out where you feel dissatisfied in real life. Think about if there’s any way you can bring these things into your relationship.

4) You feel emotionally dissatisfied

You and your girlfriend might have the time of your lives in bed. But you could still be dreaming about another woman if you feel emotionally dissatisfied.

Relationship psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish says:

“How you feel in the dream is the key to how you are feeling in real life. For instance, you may have felt a euphoric sense of abandon and freedom. Could you be feeling constricted within your relationship and wanting more freedom?”

In other words, your dreams might be showing you what emotions you’re missing in real life.

What to do about it

Whenever you want your girlfriend to give you something, a great way to get it is to give it to her first.

Model what you want her to do. She may automatically adapt and follow your lead.

Of course, good communication goes a long way too. Talk to her about what you could both invest in the relationship to make it more fulfilling.

5) They are triggered by matching emotions

Certified sex therapist Jessa Zimmerman says dreams often sprout from emotions in our real lives:

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“The emotion you’re experiencing in the dream is very real and coming from a very real place.”

The first thing to do is to identify what those emotions are exactly. Common ones are guilt, insecurity, jealousy, boredom, anxiety, anger, and overwhelm.

You’ll notice these emotions are all negative. This makes sense once we hear what assistant professor of psychology Dr. Barrett has to say about cheating dreams:

“I would expect your associations to be much more likely to lean toward something wrong in your relationship.”

What to do about it

Zimmerman suggests that a cheating dream gives you an opportunity to take stock of your relationship.

Depending on what exactly is wrong, you might be able to salvage it. Or, it might be the lightbulb moment that it’s time to call it quits.

Either way, acknowledging this issue is much better than continuing to ignore it.

What science says about cheating on your girlfriend in a dream

Science hasn’t found any conclusive explanation for dreams — but one theory in particular is worth considering here.

6) It’s a jumble of information from your day

Data dump theory says dreams are a byproduct of your brain sifting through the day’s information. It stores the important things in memory, and clears the rest.

There is both evidence and speculation about this theory, but it’s clear that sleep does play a role in memory.

So your dream about cheating on your girlfriend might be stitched together from things you saw, read, or heard the previous day.

It might have been so insignificant that you don’t even remember it anymore — but your brain can take it, blow it up, and transform it into a steamy affair.

What to do about it

You can always find “hidden meanings” to dreams if you look hard enough, but sometimes a dream is just a dream. In this case, there is nothing in particular for you to do.

However, if you feel that the dream is significant, or it leaves you with a feeling that you can’t shake, explore other possible meanings below to see which one hits home.

What does it mean to dream about cheating on your girlfriend? 12 more explanations

7) Something is missing from your life

A dream you cheated on your girlfriend might not be about the sex, your girlfriend, or the other woman. It could just be about you.

After all, the dirty deed happened entirely in your head.

This is best said by Dr. Barrett, Harvard assistant professor of psychology who teaches about dreaming:

“Having sex with someone can represent wanting to merge with some quality that this person has. And it might just have nothing to do, one way or the other, with how you’re feeling about your partner.”

In other words, you might want to embody a trait the woman in your dream has.

On the other hand, this dream could be expressing your frustration or unhappiness with something in your life.

Relationship psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish explains:

“You might also be dreaming about cheating on your partner if you’re having trouble facing important issues in your life, such as your career and your fear of making changes.”

What to do about it

Dr. Walfish suggests journaling to get to the bottom of the issue:

“Instead of falling into the trap of taking your dream literally, use your dream to review your life and fears and overall life goals. Focus on learning about you! Keep a diary and reread the sections, to learn about you.”

8) You feel guilty about something

Did you feel a stab of guilt before you even woke up?

This emotion is probably drawn from real life. And it might have nothing to do with romantic fidelity.

Professional dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg points out:

“I’ve had clients experience the cheating dream when they’d been cheating on their diet or their addiction recovery. Interestingly enough, experiencing that particular guilt in their dreams helped to reinforce their resolve to stick to their diet or recovery.”

What to do about it

Try following your guilt to its root.

Maybe you’re concerned about something you said or did. You could also feel you’re cheating your partner out of quality time due to a demanding job, family commitments, or personal hobbies.

When you identify what you feel bad about, you’ll be able to make amends for it.

9) It’s compensation for a dry spell

Are you currently in a long distance relationship?

Your dream might be your mind trying to compensate for the lack of physical intimacy.

Lauri Loewenberg says:

“When we go through a dry spell, we’ll find ourselves having a series of naughty dreams because our body has to make up for what it isn’t getting otherwise.”

But why is there another woman in the dream?

This doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship is on the fritz. According to data dump theory, which we explored above, the brain can pull inspiration from random details from our day.

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Glimpsing a woman on the bus can be all it takes to have her suddenly starring in your nocturnal affair.

What to do about it

A relationship can wane without physical intimacy.

If you’re not able to improve this directly, try spending more quality time with your girlfriend in whatever way you can.

Sure, talking to her on Skype isn’t the same thing. But emotional intimacy is one of the secrets to maintaining long-term attraction. Focusing on this can get you both through this period.

10) You’ve broken a promise or you’re thinking about doing it

At its core, cheating is the breaking of a promise — one to stay faithful to your girlfriend.

Stephanie Gailing, a life coach who does dream work, explains:

“If we think about cheating on a partner, that’s a place where you gave your word but you’re going back on your word.”

So if you dream about cheating, it might be because you’re worried about breaking some sort of a promise.

This could be a family commitment you made, a project you agreed to at work, or even a personal resolution. Your dreams simply dress it up in sexier clothes.

What to do about it

Your dream is telling you that you might be about to make a huge mistake. Think very carefully about the decision you’re deliberating on.

Are you ready to face the consequences?

Maybe you’ll find another solution you haven’t considered yet. If it’s the only way, do it with as much integrity as possible.

11) You’re attracted to another woman

Did you dream you cheated on your girlfriend with someone you know in real life?

Certified sex therapist Jessa Zimmerman says this dream could stem from a real-life attraction:

“If your sex dreams are about a particular person, especially someone you know in your real life, you should consider whether there is a real-life attraction (not a problem) and any sort of dalliance or flirtation with them (a problem).”

If this person isn’t significant in your waking life, your dream could be symbolizing that your attention is being pulled in too many directions.

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Perhaps there is something taking away time that you should be spending with your girlfriend.

What to do about it

Harvard assistant professor Dr. Barrett points out that your dreams might uncover an attraction you’re not consciously aware of.

When you wake up and realize that those butterflies don’t dissipate along with the dream, you have two options.

“You either pursue that relationship, or make sure to avoid that person like the plague in the future because they seem like a major threat to the stability of your relationship.”

12) You feel anxious about something

Have you ever considered that your cheating dreams might be the result of anxiety?

Relationship therapist Jamie Bronstein says you should. For example, you could be afraid of messing up the relationship.

“When there is anxiety in a relationship, the most common reason why cheating dreams happen is due to fear that the relationship will end. As humans, our fears come out during our sleep state when our ego-mind is not there to censor or push feelings and thoughts away.”

But your anxiety could also come from any other aspect of your life.

“When we sleep, any worry or concern comes through. It’s always best to look at dreams and see what we can learn rather than discount them. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem in the relationship as dreams tend to be metaphors and don’t always represent what they seem to represent.”

What to do about it

If the main emotion that this dream pulls up is stress, it’s time to look for its root cause.

Are you trying to juggle too many responsibilities? Is there something big coming up soon that you feel unprepared for?

You need to find a way to manage your stress. Of course, don’t overdo it and make sure to carve out some time for relaxation so your brain has energy to keep going.

13) You’re stuck in a rut

Dream decoding expert Theresa Cheung says there has been a rise in cheating dreams during COVID-19.

She notes that this could be because partners were spending their days together at home, falling into boring predictable routines.

“People dreamt of cheating because our dreaming mind was trying to help them. We’re all stuck at home, stuck in a rut with no intimacy. Sometimes too much time together isn’t great for your relationship. So your dream was throwing you a bit of an adventure, a bit of fun for you. It’s actually very healthy.”

What to do about it

Your relationship has lost some of its flavor. Can you bring back a bit of spice?

If you don’t know where to start, relationship expert James Bauer has a great suggestion. Make a date out of coming up with the best date ideas together. Have a nice dinner, a glass of wine, and brainstorm ideas together.

You’d be surprised how fun this can become!

14) You’ve let yourself down

Ready for things to get really abstract?

Your dream might not be about cheating on your girlfriend at all — but rather about cheating yourself out of your full potential.

Dream decoding expert Theresa Cheung explains:

“If you cheat with a stranger in your dream, look at your daily waking life. Where am I letting myself down? What does the cheating mean to me? Cheating means I’m not doing the best that I can. I’m not fulfilling my potential. I didn’t do a great job there.”

This could represent any area of your life. For example, you might have always wanted to start your own business, but you’re wasting time and energy on a 9 to 5 office job you can’t stand.

What to do about it

Visualize your best self. How close are you to being this person?

Are you doing all you can to become him?

Your dream is telling you that you’ve lost your way, but it’s not too late to get yourself back on the right path.

15) You’re compromising your values

Aside from not realizing your full potential, your dream could also be a warning that you’re compromising your values.

Author of The Dream Interpretation Handbook Karen Frazier says:

“The person you cheat with may also represent some aspect of yourself you’ve disowned that you need to integrate into your life.”

This aspect might range from ancestral ethnicity to principles you want to live by, like honesty, courage, or kindness.

What to do about it

The aspect you’re compromising might be immediately clear to you when you wake up. Or, you may have to do a bit more digging.

Frazier offers two tips to help identify it.

First, look for more clues in a dream, like location or identity.

And second, examine your waking life: “Ask yourself what’s going on in your life where you might feel like you’re betraying some important aspect of self.”

16) You’re not giving your girlfriend enough attention

As mentioned already, dreams about cheating on your girlfriend could really be about feeling guilty, dissatisfied in your relationship, or compromising your principles.

Or it could even be a mix of all three — you feel you’re not giving enough attention to your girlfriend.

Dream analyst Loewenberg explains:

“When you are the one straying in your dreams you need to ask yourself what you may be doing that is taking your attention away from your mate. The guilt you feel in the dream is a tell tale sign that, deep down, you are aware that this may not be sitting well with your significant other.”

What to do about it

Since your girlfriend is a large part of the reason for this dream, you should talk to her about whether or not she feels you’ve been too detached in some way.

You might discover you’re feeling overly guilty for something she’s totally cool with.

Or, she might confirm your fears and you’ll finally have an open discussion about an underlying problem.

17) You’re playing out a fantasy

Curiosity is all your brain needs to put together a scene worthy of 50 Shades of Grey.

Psychologist Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell states that these dreams can stem from memories from your day, whether significant or not.

The people you see, the things you read, and the pictures that subliminally catch your eye can all be intricately woven together to create your dream.

Your brain can turn things sexual out of sheer curiosity, even if you have no actual desire for things to go there.

Dream decoding expert Theresa Cheung agrees that this dream can come from our curious nature. She adds:

“Sometimes we repress that because of the expectations of society. [But] quite rightly so we are curious, and that’s what a sex dream does for you.”

What to do about it

These dreams are very healthy from one perspective: they let you experiment in ways that you aren’t able to in real life.

Your dream might reveal to you things that you might want to have in reality as well. Consider if there is an element of the dream that you and your girlfriend could try.

Who knows, she could be up for it as well!

18) Someone is going after you and you’re wondering what to do

As mentioned above, your dreams could be a natural symbol of curiosity.

But this curiosity might be coming from a very real place.

Maybe there’s someone actively pursuing you, and you’re not sure what to do about it.

Your mind might be exploring the possibility of accepting the other woman’s advances.

What to do about it

Cheating almost never ends well for anyone involved.

If you really want to go ahead with it, you might as well do it right and break things off with your girlfriend first. You’ll be able to enjoy the experience with a clear conscience, and you’ll treat your girlfriend with more integrity.

If you’d like to stay in your relationship, you can consider if there’s anything your temptation is offering you that you could get in your current relationship too. You’d be surprised what you can achieve through effective communication!

How to figure out what exactly your dream means?

As you can see from the list above, having a dream about cheating on your girlfriend can mean almost anything.

To interpret what your dream in particular means, Dr. Barrett, who teaches courses on dreaming at Harvard University, suggests pretending that you’re an alien and asking yourself “What is cheating?” in the broadest sense possible.

Your answer might be anything from “horrible betrayal” to “titillating seduction”. Once you’ve determined your baseline definition, dig deeper with some follow-up questions:

  • What exactly did you do cheating wise?
  • How did it feel in the moment?
  • Was it a one-time fling or a long term affair?
  • Did it feel like betrayal?
  • Was your partner in the dream? If not, were you aware of their existence?

With this as your foundation, use the two tips below to zero in on meaning behind your dream.

1) Examine your feelings

A great way to find the meaning behind your cheating dream is by looking for matching feelings.

Does anything in your waking life evoke the same emotions as your dream did?

Dr. Barrett says this can help unlock the “metaphorical” meaning of the dream.

2) Journal

Clinical psychologist  Dr. Carla Manly recommends keeping a journal about both your life and dreams. Look for any connections between the two.

“If the deciphering process doesn’t initially yield results, allow yourself to sleep on it (literally), and let your psyche continue to do its work. By paying attention to your dreams, the messages will eventually become clear.”

Is it normal to have dreams about cheating?

Dreams about cheating on your girlfriend are much more common than you may realize.

Dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg did a survey of over 5000 people through her website. She found that the cheating dream was the most often reported!

Another similar survey was done by mattress brand Amerisleep in 2020. They found that dreams about sex and intimacy were by far the most common. In addition:

  • 21% had dreams about cheating on their partner
  • 23% had dreams they were cheated on by their partner

Recurring dreams about cheating — what they’re telling you

If you have a recurring dream about cheating on your girlfriend, something is screaming for your attention.

Dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg says:

“You will continue to get this, or a similar, dream until you address the underlying issue that the dream is commenting on. So, you do need to address that underlying issue.”

As we saw in the 18 meanings above, these dreams could be pointing to something in your relationship, or they might have nothing to do with it.

Keep an open mind and explore all the possibilities. When you find something that feels relevant, dig deeper to get to the bottom of the issue.

I had a dream I cheated on my girlfriend — does this mean I don’t love her?

When you have a dream you cheated on your girlfriend, it’s normal for worry or doubt about your relationship to creep into your head.

The first thing to do is not to panic. As psychotherapist Dr. LeslieBeth Wish explains, cheating dreams can mean all kinds of things or nothing at all.

“Your brain is wired for dreaming. Dreams allow us to perform many functions, including working out our problems, feelings, events, and more. But be careful about interpreting your dream literally. Many dreams are expressed as symbolic stories, much like fairy tales that teach us a lesson. Dreams can also be a tangled mix of television shows you just watched, the events of your day, and the issues you’re facing in your life. So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your dreams are facts or instructions about what you should do.”

You could be the most faithful, committed partner to your girlfriend. Cheating may not even have crossed your mind. Yet you could still have steamy affairs play out in your mind at night.

As Dr. Barrett says, “dreams just don’t observe those boundaries.”

Your subconscious could simply be exploring what it would be like to go against your values.

Should I tell my girlfriend I had a dream that I cheated on her?

You might wonder if you should tell your girlfriend about this dream.

In certain situations this could be a good idea, and in others it really isn’t.

If the dream doesn’t mean anything important

If the dream is just a random collage of images, natural curiosity, or compensating for a dry spell, it’s better not to tell your girlfriend.

The dream isn’t a big deal, but your girlfriend will sure think it is. It can lead her to feel extremely insecure and self-conscious, and instill doubts in her head without any good reason.

What happens in your head can stay there, especially if you have no control over it — your actions are what’s most important.

If the dream uncovers problems in your relationship

Your dream might point to problems in your relationship. In this case, neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez encourages having an open discussion:

“Having these conversations may alleviate any worries or anxieties, and you may stop dreaming about cheating.”

Psychotherapist Aimee Barr agrees, but adds that you don’t need to talk about the actual dream:

“Infidelity is a really heightened and sensitive topic, so telling your partner that you’re having cheating dreams — especially if you’re doing the cheating — actually doesn’t have to be part of the convo. Instead, address that you are noticing that there’s an issue, and emphasize that you want to work through it with them.”

Final thoughts

Now you’re fully equipped to figure out what your dream means and what you should do about it.

Remember that dreams can give eye-opening insight into hidden issues, but it’s up to you to process them with your conscious mind. Once you do, you’ll have much more clarity and peace in both your life and your relationships.

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