It’s normal to get emotional when dreaming about an ex. There might be sadness, confusion, even surprise if you’ve dated a long time ago. Some of your dreams (or nightmares!) can be unhealthy for your sleep pattern.
In our imagination, it’s easy to go to bed and feel peaceful and relaxed. However, the reality isn’t that simple. Sometimes, even if you tend to fall asleep with ease, your thoughts and feelings can prove overwhelming.
What’s the meaning of dreaming about your ex? Read on to find out!
As we said above, having dreams with your ex isn’t something weird. Research tells us that the frequency of dreams with ex-partners has to do with your marital status. For example, a whopping 35% of people in relationships have dreams with their exes or their partners. I’m opposition, only 17% of single folks dream with their exes.
There are three psychological theories to explain this:
- Psychodynamic Theory: Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, thought dreams were a portal to our subconscious. If we follow his theory, our dreams can be related to things that happened to us and provide us with important information.
- Activation-Input-Modulation (AIM) Model: According to this theory, put brains have a high level of activity when we are asleep. They make up scenarios to practice afterward in the waking world.
- Neurocognitive Theory: in this theory, the closest one to Freud’s, dreams are our brain’s attempt to process memories.
Dreams about an ex? Here are six reasons why
Dreaming about an ex-partner doesn’t really mean you want to get back together. Furthermore, it isn’t uncommon to have these types of dreams. If you’re in a relationship, it doesn’t mean you want to end things with your current partner.
Our minds, our subconscious, is a lot more complex than that.
With all of this out of the way, though, not knowing why you’ve had a dream with your ex can be unsettling. There are a few reasons, and you can read about them here:
1) Your ex is just a symbol
Your ex might make an appearance in your dreams, but it’s not about them at all. They can be the representation of something different. Researchers have proposed a tentative way to interpret this: recognizing the emotional state or feelings in such a dream is the key to really understand what it means and how to interpret it.
“The biggest mistake you can make when trying to interpret your dream is to think it’s actually about the person you just dreamt about,” affirms Gary Toub, Ph.D., a senior training analyst at the C.G. Jung Institute of Colorado.
“Your subconscious mind, or your dream, picks the best possible representation for something that it’s trying to symbolize, so if the content is about your ex, you need to look at how that ex symbolizes something within yourself.”
If you’re wondering about the meaning of seeing an ex in your dreams, think about how you are feeling. What are your feelings toward them? What memories do you have of that relationship? These might be more important in the significance of the dream that your previous partner.
What would a gifted advisor say?
The reasons above and below will give you a good idea of why you’re dreaming about your ex.
But a surefire way to know for sure is to speak with a gifted advisor.
They can interpret your dreams as well as explain the mixed emotions you must be feeling.
The problem is finding someone you can trust.
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Not only will a genuine advisor tell you what your dream truly means, but they can reveal all the possibilities too.
2) There’s something negative in your life
Perhaps there are things that don’t fulfill you anymore. An ex in our dreams can work as a symbol for that. Stuff you need to “end things with”, to really progress in life.
Think about it: is there anything that you know is not letting you move on and be happy? It’s not too late to change things.
Our subconscious is always working with the things we don’t “know” in our waking lives. Unresolved trauma from childhood, issues that need closure, anything that throws us off balance. Sometimes these issues transform into patterns, and we repeat them in all our relationships.
For example, if an ex cheated on you, you might have nightmares about cheating on your current partner with your ex. It’s your subconscious trying to “solve” the problem if you still haven’t had proper closure.
3) You want to love once more
You might be really happy with your new partner, but still, there can be things you wish were different. Perhaps your ex satisfied emotional needs that your new love doesn’t.
In this scenario, dreaming about your ex can help you interpret what this need is, giving you the opportunity to clarify yourself and talk with your current partner. There’s no need to share the dream with them, by the way, only your discoveries.
Your ex is a symbol of this need or desire. If you have recurrent dreams about them, you can feel as if you were stuck with their memories.
4) You’re mourning
Going through a breakup isn’t easy in the best case, and it can be devastating. The circumstances don’t really matter here, what matters is the emotion. You are going through a mourning phase after ending things with someone you love.
You can feel as if you’re empty, reminiscing about the dreams and hopes you had together.
Even if you broke things up amicably, there’s loss and grief about it. You’ve lost someone you loved, it’s normal.
Whatever you don’t want to acknowledge in your waking hours can invade your dreams and let itself be known. This is healthy.
The breakup might have caught you by surprise, leaving a trauma in your psyche. If you’re still mourning and you haven’t taken the steps to heal, you can start having regular dreams where your ex makes an appearance.
5) You’ve seen your ex
If you’ve recently come into contact with your ex, for example, if they tried calling you out of the blue, you might have unanswered questions. These issues manifest themselves in dreams.
If you answer the call, there’s a very high chance of you recalling the time you spent together. Again, this is normal. You don’t necessarily control the ways in which memories appear in your mind.
Perhaps you were mindlessly scrolling on your phone, or perhaps you found them at a nearby cafe. Seeing them can trigger your memory and this, in turn, can make you dream about them. An ex appearing in your dreams can simply be part of the memory consolidation process.
The research concludes that dreams most incorporate things that happened one or seven days after the experience itself.
Even if they are not super active in the dream, perhaps you changed something in your routine and it triggered a memory that manifested itself in your dream.
It might also be that you’re trying to start things over, although you’re not consciously looking for that.
6) You’ve got unresolved issues
And finally, one of the main reasons you’re dreaming of your ex is because there are parts of your relationship/breakup that are unresolved.
The problem is, if you’re no longer in touch with your ex, resolving these issues and gaining closure may never happen.
But what if you’re looking for practical solutions to get over your ex and get closure by yourself?
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Specific dreams scenarios and their meaning
These are weird times and they bring on wild dreams. Some of them are cute, some of them are scary or shocking. Here we wrote down the most common ones:
Dreaming about your ex marrying someone that’s not you
A possible dream scenario is you watching your ex getting married to someone else. “This is another common one,” says Loewenberg, a dream expert with several books published about dream interpretation and our subconscious.
“Your subconscious is trying to reason with you and let you know that your ex has moved on and has a new life. They have other things going on and you need to do the same.”
It can hurt to see them moving on and getting married to someone else. You might be unwilling to accept it, feeling stuck and locked in the past.
If your relationship was strained or abusive, the context changes. Perhaps you’re dreaming with them because you want to smooth things over, let go of the past and forgive them their mistakes. It’s good to forgive because it liberates us.
Dreaming you have fallen back into a toxic relationship pattern
Now, dreaming about a downright abusive ex is a different matter. The nightmare might involve an ex cheating on you again, but according to Löwenberg, dreaming about an ex-partner that caused you “misery in any form or fashion” has a similar pattern of the reasoning behind it.
The dream expert refers to the example of an abusive ex to explain herself: “This is particularly true for women — I hear this all the time. They’ll dream that the ex is still beating them — they’re still suffering the abuse. That’s trauma. That’s a little bit of PTSD happening.”
Speaking with a therapist is essential, but you can add more actions:
“You need to look at this and be honest with yourself by asking, ʻAre you still beating yourself up for being in that relationship for that long?’
“Women who are in abusive relationships often stay in it way too long and they’re scared, or they don’t know what to do.
When they finally get out, they get mad at themselves and they beat themselves up, and the dream reflects that. You’re still allowing your abuse but now you’re the one doing it — not physically but psychologically.”
Dreaming your ex is begging for forgiveness
You can dream about your ex begging for forgiveness and looking to atone for his sins. He might be “better” in dreams, but it doesn’t mean he has worked on himself in real life. Having this kind of dream can mean you have the unfulfilled wish to have him back.
You’ve not moved on after you broke up and you’re still hoping something good will happen to you both. When this is the case, try to remember the reasons you broke up for. Don’t minimize them, prioritize your happiness.
If the relationship was abusive, you don’t have to go back to him. He’s probably the same bad guy, and now the only good thing is that he’s your ex. Move on and give your mental and physical health the importance they deserve.
Dreaming you are murdering your ex
“If you’re the one doing it, that’s a good indication to actively take steps to put an end to any sort of resentment or frustration you’re still holding onto,” Loewenberg says.
“The biggest problem when we’ve gone through a bad breakup is that we bring resentment into our next relationship. This dream is a good sign that you are killing the negative feelings off, so that your next relationship or your current relationship can stand on its own.”
Dreams about you murdering your ex-partner can signify that you’ve sacrificed certain patterns in your personality. You’ve overcome the mourning phase and can see things more clearly now. You’ve healed!
This is the symbol of your ability to prioritize yourself and cut off toxic ties. Let go of the negativity.
You can rejoice in your renewed self-power. You’ve murdered (symbolically) a negative pattern of actions that diminished your happiness and peace.
This dream is a representation of a fresh start for you.
Dreaming you and your cheating ex are happy together
If you’ve ended things on bad terms with your ex, it can be disconcerting to wake up after dreaming you were happy with them, that you loved them.
“There are so many metaphors happening in a dream, it’s not about one thing, like only the ex,” says Marion Frank, a psychologist who specializes in dreams and relationships in the Philadelphia area. There are layers in the meaning of dreams. For example, the location might be important. Your emotions are essential, both in the dream and when you woke up after it.
If for example your dream involved a beach and you live nowhere near a beach in real life, and furthermore, your ex doesn’t bring up positive emotions… you can be entering a new phase in life.
“What is it you like about the mind frame you’re in during this dreamlike state, and then try to apply that to your everyday life,” she adds.
The meaning of this new phase, of course, can change. You might be ready to switch careers, or take the next step with your current partner. The dream can represent your ability to get closure, thus, making the presence of your ex not very important.
How to spot a red flag in your dreams
It’s not very common to interpret these types of dreams as red flags, except in when the context provides more clues:
- It might be a problem if you dream with your ex more than three times a week.
- it’s definitely a problem if you wake up scared and can’t shake it off in a good while. Especially if it isn’t the first time you dream about them.
- If you’ve already been fantasizing with them while you were awake.
If you feel as if your dreams are warning you of an unresolved issue in real life, you can talk to a therapist or any kind of mental health professional. If you’ve got a partner, you can also approach the issue with them.
Talking about the dreams with your current partner
Your current partner has probably noticed you’re different, especially if the dreams are affecting you while you’re awake.
It’s fine to share your dreams with them when they are worried and asking about it. Here we have a few examples on how to approach the conversation.
- “I’ve been having recurring nightmares about my past, and that’s why I’ve been so quiet and withdrawn with you. I’ve been trying to find an answer to these dreams. I still love you, and we’re still good.
- “It’s true, I’ve been acting strangely these past few days. I’ve been having disturbing dreams and the feelings affect my waking hours. I will talk to you as soon as I am able to. Thank you for your patience.”
If you trust they can be patient and understand, and if you feel you could hurt them by telling them the content of your dreams, this is the way to go. You acknowledge the difference in your actions, and the weirdness of your moods.
Deciphering your dreams
Dreams are generally coded so as to not disturb our sleeping patterns too much. Our subconscious acts this way. Even so, they provide us with valuable information and help us process difficult stuff. This applies to all of your dreams, not only the dreams about your ex.
If you’re trying to decode these dreams, there are key questions you can ask yourself to know the meaning.
- What are you feeling during the dream?
- Have you been having this feeling for a long time or not? If you have, when’s the first time you felt it?
- Des this person symbolize something else? A past, a wish, a memory?
- If there were numbers in your dream, do they have a meaning? What do you associate them with?
We can know our unresolved issues when we decipher the meaning of our dreams. If you’re concerned about them, consider starting a dream journal, and this way you can find out if there’s a reoccurring event or a pattern in them.
You can work through your issues this way, whether or not they implicate your ex.
Is there a psychic connection with your ex through these dreams?
No. It sounds great, but no. We aren’t suddenly psychics while we sleep. Even so, Layne Dalfen, dream analyst and author of the Have a Great Dream series, believes that some people can share a mental connection if they’ve been with somebody for a long time.
“Though this isn’t my way of looking at dream analysis, after 48 years doing this I know without question that we are capable of ESP and we are talking to each other all the time—sometimes with words, and sometimes with thoughts.”
“You might have similar images in your dreams, but for me, that wouldn’t be a psychic kind of thing,” Dalfen adds. In a nutshell, don’t get to the conclusion that they’re dreaming about you. They won’t dream with you at the same time, you won’t find each other in the same dream, like in a cheap movie.
Journaling your dreams
A dream journal, as we said before, can help you keep track of recurring themes in your dreams. When you wake up, write everything you remember from your dreams. You can come to your own conclusions then.
It’s important to identify the emotions you felt in your dreams, as well as your reactions to them. With this information, you can know a bit better what’s your subconscious processing, and then, you will know if the dreams are really about your ex or not.
Aside from journaling, another way to remember the content of our dreams is to practice lucid dreaming. This is advisable to be able to decipher things a bit faster.
Therapy always helps, even when you’re talking about dreams.
With their expertise, you can unlock the keys to the meaning of your dreams and apply different strategies to see if they change over time.
Summing it up
There are several different meanings when it comes to dreaming about an ex-partner. There’s probably something in your life that feels stuck. The dream gives you the opportunity to dive in and break free from toxic patterns and emotional entanglements.
If you want to better your present and future relationships, starting with your dreams is good. Avoid falling into the same relationship dynamics and learn the lessons of past events.
Did you ever think that dreaming about your ex, even if you sort of hate them, could be such a good opportunity to know yourself better?
Can a gifted advisor help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to someone with special intuition.
I know this from personal experience…
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