Why do I keep dreaming about my ex? 12 spiritual reasons

Breakups are one of the most painful things that happen to us. More painful than losing a job, sometimes on par with losing a loved one, breakups can gut our very souls in ways few other events can.

What’s worse, you can’t really grieve with the person you love, can you? You two have split apart, and that partnership upon which you relied no longer serves as a source of stability.

Because your ex was such a profound part of your life, your hopes, your dreams, it is only natural that they appear in your dreams. After all, you’re probably thinking about them during your waking hours too.

But what specific reasons are there for your ex appearing in your dreams? Are there spiritual reasons why you keep dreaming about your ex? Does it matter how long ago you and your ex broke up?

We’ll take a look at all this and more in 12 surprising spiritual reasons why you keep dreaming about your ex.

12 spiritual reasons why you keep dreaming about your ex

1) You have unresolved feelings for your ex

This is especially true if the breakup is fresh or if you two didn’t end things on the best of terms. The longer you were with a partner, the longer it takes to get over the breakup.

If you were with your partner for two years, then you probably will be dreaming about your partner in the first few weeks and months after the breakup occurs.

These unresolved feelings could be desire, confusion, anger, disbelief – nearly anything! If you were the breakupee (the one getting broken up with), these emotions may be stronger because the breakup wasn’t on your terms. It may have come as a surprise, or it may have been something you saw coming, tried to avoid, and weren’t successful at salvaging the relationship.

No matter the reason, the truth is that you had a lot of emotions with and for your ex when you were together. Breaking up doesn’t turn off those emotions like a light switch. The emotions are still flowing from your heart and spirit, with nowhere to go.

And sometimes those emotions manifest themselves in your dreams.

2) You’re anxious about your new relationship

So it’s been a few months (or years), and you’ve gotten into a new relationship. Great! Way to put yourself out there.

Only the problem is, you’ve been having dreams about your ex … maybe even while you’re sleeping next to your new love.

Listen: we’ve all been there. It happens. You feel guilty about it! You are concerned that maybe you’re meant to be with your ex, you get conflicted about if your new relationship is really “the one.”

It’s ok. What’s happening is that you are anxious about your new relationship, and this anxiety is manifesting itself in your dreams.

New relationships bring a lot of anxiety. You may wonder if you and your new partner are compatible, if they intend on breaking up with you, all sorts of things! This new anxiety can be rooted in the failure of a previous relationship, and this can subconsciously cause your brain to pull your ex into your dreams.

3) You’re yearning for something you can’t have

If you’re dreaming about your ex, the ex could represent something you cannot have – the forbidden fruit, so to speak.

Let’s face it, in most instances, it’s pretty impossible to get your ex back. They could have moved away, one or both of you could be in a new relationship, and you all ended up not being compatible. As such, the ex can stand in for wanting something that you cannot or should not have.

4) You’re afraid of getting hurt

For many of us, the ending of a relationship is hurtful. Either we’ve been broken up with, or we have broken up with someone bad for us. Both come with their fair share of pain, anguish, and suffering. For some people, the pain of getting broken up with can last for years or months.

When you put yourself back out there into the dating pool, you put yourself at risk of getting burned again. You make yourself vulnerable. And that vulnerability is scary! No one wants to be rejected! It sucks.

So, that feeling of anxiety – that anxiety of being rejected – manifests itself in your dreams as your ex. Possibly your ex could be breaking up with you again in your dream, forcing you to re-live that pain!

Just know that the dream doesn’t tell the future! Just because you dreamed about your ex (or just because you were burned in the past) doesn’t mean you’ll be burned again! Each new relationship is a new possibility for success!

5) You’re not over your ex

“Getting over” an ex is a process, one that happens in a non-linear manner that is unique for every person. Some people are “over it” almost immediately, others take many months. Still, some people can be “partly over” their ex, while still yearning for closure, or frequently reminiscing about their ex during special events and holidays.

There’s not a test that can determine if you’re truly over your ex, and as a result, sometimes people jump back into dating before they’re truly ready to begin a new relationship. Dreaming about an ex may be a subconscious sign that, “hey, you haven’t fully processed the pain of this relationship ending.”

In that case, take some time to decompress and work through the breakup.

6) You’re trying to forgive them

Relationships end on sour notes for many of us, and this sour note can fester, leaving us bearing grudges for months. Maybe we feel that the ex didn’t “give the relationship a chance,” or we feel that they took advantage of us – stringing us around for months.

Whatever the reason, it’s common to feel resentment and to not have the ability to put this resentment to bed in real life. Life isn’t as tidy as a movie, and we often aren’t given the benefit of a final conversation where we can forgive and be forgiven.

But that doesn’t mean that that urge doesn’t exist. We still want to forgive, even if we aren’t able to forgive. Dreaming about an ex, therefore, can be a subconscious attempt to act out this forgiveness, using the dream as a stand-in for the ex that you can’t see in person.

7) Trying to forgive yourself

On the flip side, you may blame yourself for how the relationship ended, feeling that perhaps you led someone on, didn’t handle your emotions well, or acted selfishly.

Dreaming about your ex, then, could be your attempt to hear your ex say, “I’m ok.” You yearn to hear your ex tell you that they’ve moved on and they don’t begrudge you so that you can forgive yourself and move on.

If this description fits how you’re feeling, it may be some time to do a little soul searching and self-healing. Figure out how you fell short in your last relationship, and use that lesson to modify your behavior in your future partnerships.

8) You’re moving forward in life

Perhaps you’ve got a new job. Maybe you’re moving to a new city. Whatever it is, one chapter of your life is closing – and another one is opening.

Change is scary. This anxiety can manifest itself in your dreams, and you may find yourself dreaming about your ex. Why? Because your ex represents your past, and you are moving on from your past. The dream, therefore, could be a manifestation of your fears of leaving your past behind. Embrace that anxiety, and accept that change will be hard.

9) You’re yearning for closure

As we mentioned earlier, closure doesn’t often happen. You don’t typically get the chance to hash out all the pain of a breakup, shake hands, and part ways amicably. Usually, there are lingering feelings of pain, resentment, and animosity.

It’s natural to want to get rid of these feelings. Dreaming about your ex can be an attempt to create closure, as your mind creates a dream version of your ex that you can cast your pain onto.

My advice: embrace it. Closure is great, even if it comes from a dream!

10) You’re breaking up with your past

If you are dreaming about breaking up with your ex, this could be a subconscious attempt to break up with past actions that are holding you back. If you were the one who got broken up with, this dream could be an attempt to rewrite your past, painting you as the stronger partner.

Or, it could be a stand-in for a negative time in your relationship, and the dream represents you cutting that negativity out from your life.

11) You’re lonely

When we’re in a relationship with someone, our whole world both expands and focuses on another person. It’s a richer world, but one that is directed at one specific person. When a breakup occurs, this richness is shattered, and we often feel a little directionless and pretty lonely.

This loneliness is isolating and all-encompassing. Your brain will then try to correct for this loneliness, possibly by remembering and re-imagining the times when you were less lonely – the times when you were with your ex.

Don’t overthink these dreams. Don’t envision them as signs that you need to get back together with your ex. Instead, recognize what you are feeling – loneliness – and determine a healthy way to correct for that.

Spoiler alert: it’s not by getting back together with your ex. You broke up for a reason!

12) You’re not satisfied

Satisfaction can mean many different things. Your ex could have satisfied you emotionally, romantically, sexually, intellectually! If you’re in a new relationship, it’s natural that you may compare your new one to your old one, and you may feel that your new relationship falls short in certain categories.

Dreaming about your ex, then, maybe a mental attempt to fulfill the areas of your life where you feel unsatisfied.

If you’re not in a new relationship, it may be that your current single-hood or hookups are much less satisfying than being in a committed relationship.

No matter what your current relationship status is, this is a call to evaluate how you currently feel. Where are you satisfied? Where are you not? What can you do to fix that?

When and why did you and your ex break up?

The context for your break up with your ex can help you understand why you are dreaming about your ex, and what to do about your dream. Here are some common reasons for breaking up, and how they impact your dreams about your ex.

1) Your ex was abusive

If your ex was abusive, and you dream about your ex, this could be an attempt by your mind to re-examine the relationship. If the dream has you breaking up with your abusive ex, this could be your dream reinforcing that you needed to leave an abusive relationship.

If, on the other hand, you had a dream where your ex was loving and tender, the dream could represent a subconscious yearning for who you wish your ex was, instead of who they actually were.

2) You cheated on your ex

If you dream about your ex, and you cheated on your ex, your dream could be an attempt to atone for your transgression. Perhaps, in the dream, you have apologized and your ex has taken you back. This could be a fantasy where your atonement leads to redemption.

Or, maybe your ex berates you – and you don’t get back. In that case, your brain may be trying to atone for the pain you have caused.

3) Your ex cheated on you

If your ex cheated on you, your dream could be an attempt to mentally “win them back.” Being cheated on can be devastating, and it can lead to feelings of inferiority, insignificance, and embarrassment. If you have a dream where your ex desires you deeply, then the dream can help heal the wound of being betrayed.

If, however, the dream is you finding out that your ex cheated on you, this may be a way of processing the trauma that the cheating caused you.

4) You broke up recently

If you broke up recently, it’s pretty natural to dream about your ex! You two were in each other’s lives for quite some time. You undoubtedly miss them, and you’re probably thinking about them frequently. Therefore, you’ll probably be dreaming about them as well, as they are already present in your waking thoughts.

It sucks, as you’re probably attempting to move on from the relationship, but take it as a sign that you’re not really ready to fully commit to something new.

5) You broke up a long time ago

Dreaming about an ex after breaking up a long time ago can be startling. It could be because you have been single for a while, or it could be because you and your new partner are moving on to a new phase of your life (engagement, marriage, children).

The ex, therefore, could represent your past, and exist almost as a challenge – a question – are you really ready to move forward?

The dream means less than your feelings upon waking. How did you feel about dreaming about your ex? Grateful that you broke up? Happy to be moving forward? In that case, don’t pay that dream too much attention!

6) You just started a new relationship

Starting a new relationship is nerve-wracking. You’re trying to figure out what the other person likes, dislikes, how compatible the two of you are! It’s a stressful time. You’ll undoubtedly be comparing them to the previous person you dated, your ex. Even if this comparison is subconscious, it will still manifest itself in your dreams.

Dreaming about your ex in this case may make you feel very uneasy, as if your new relationship is off to a bad start. Don’t fret. It’s just a product of your anxieties. Remember, what counts are your actions, emotions, and relationships that you build in your waking days, not in your dreams.

Dreaming about your ex: it’s not a big deal.

Dreaming about an ex can be overwhelming, unnerving, and jarring. It can make you question whether you should have broken up in the first place or if your new relationship is a good idea.

While alarming, it is still important to remember that dreaming about an ex doesn’t mean anything is set in stone for your future. Instead, these dreams have much more to do with your mental state, the state of your spirit, and the state of your mind. Take the time to do some soul-searching. Check-in with yourself and your feelings.

It’s important to understand the spiritual reasons for your dreams about your ex. Once you can pinpoint why you’ve been dreaming about your ex, you can understand how these reasons impact your current relationship/mental state.

From there, you can determine how to heal your mind and spirit, and then figure out how to move forward in your new relationships in a healthy manner.

After all, every breakup can be turned into a learning opportunity. It is up to you to determine which lessons you learn and how you will evolve your spirit.

Nathan Dennis

Nathan Dennis

Nathan Dennis is a Manhattan based playwright and poet of Floridian extraction. A graduate of NYU Tisch Department of Dramatic Writing, he served as a Rita and Burton Goldberg Fellow, and was awarded Outstanding Writing for the Stage in Spring of 2015. His most recent play, Lord of Florida, was workshopped by PrismHouse Theatre Company in the Fall of 2017.

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