You thought that you had permanently put your ex in the past, where they rightly deserve to be. So how come they keep creeping into your dreams at night? After all, when you rest your head on your pillow, you’re probably hoping to dream about something more appealing than your ex, like winning the lottery, kids who are cooperative (and don’t try to kill each other), or sheesh, a clean kitchen. But if you dream about your ex, it might have nothing to do with them — and everything to do with you.
Before you panic about a dream about a past partner, just know that it’s pretty common. “Even years after a breakup, it is not uncommon to have dreams of an ex,” Adora Winquist, a dream analyst, tells Romper. “Relationships, particularly those that are intimate, create cords of connection that last far beyond the breakup date.” Depending on the type of dream you have about an ex, it can reveal a lot about where you are in life, and potential problems you might be facing.
Why did I dream about my ex?
Our mind does some mental gymnastics in our dreams, and is always trying to sort things out, both in the present and the past. So if you’re fresh off a breakup, it’s a no-brainer that your ex will pop up in a dream. “If it is your most recent ex, you are likely dreaming about them because your subconscious is trying to help you come to terms with the ending of the relationship and help you to reach closure,” Lauri Loewenberg, a dream analyst, tells Romper. “So pay close attention to the tone of these dreams as well as the details, especially anything that is said in the dream as well as what your thought process is while in the dream because it will correlate with your current thoughts on the matter.”
But here’s the rub. While you might search your dreams for some hidden clues (particularly from any interactions the two of you might have), discussions in a dream are usually a one-way street. “Anything that is said in the dream, even whatever your ex says, is really coming from you,” explains Loewenberg. “Your dream is your creation, and the conversations in your dreams are really a conversation you are having with yourself about the situation.” Listen to what both of you are saying, because it can help you understand how you really feel about the situation. Because if the tone is upsetting and the words coming from your “ex” are cruel and cutting, that’s your own inner dialogue beating yourself up. Speak to yourself kindly by using supportive and uplifting words, so that subsequent dreams about your ex won’t be so distressing.
Here's what dreaming about your first love means
Even if you’re happily coupled (or single and loving it), old flames might burn brightly come bedtime. And those dreams can be distressing, since they might make you wonder why you’re dreaming about an ex when you’re in a good place with your partner. Well, you’ll be happy to know that, again, it’s not about your ex, but you. “The ex we tend to dream about the most, however, is our first love,” says Loewenberg. “When we fall in love we feel alive! Life is exciting, we feel good about ourselves, we carry around a yearning for the other person and want to spend all our time with them.”
Because these are such powerful feelings, your first love leaves an imprint on your mind (and heart) well after you’ve both moved on. Since they ultimately become the embodiment of desire and adoration, when an ex makes an appearance in your dreams, it’s not them who’s showing up — but your passion. “Your subconscious just might be doing a comparison between your life then and now,” she says. Whether you’re in a dry spell or your current relationship is lacking that extra somethin’ somethin’, your subconscious might be telling you to reignite the flame either in your current relationship or perhaps even to put passion to your purpose for a more filling life.
Here’s what dreaming about an abusive ex means
Although some dreams about an ex might be sexy, some can be downright scary. “Dreaming of the abusive or cheating ex is a strong indication that you haven’t been able to let go of the distrust, the anger, and the resentment that they created,” Loewenberg explains. “Remember, it's not about the ex anymore but more about what remains within you since they were in your life.” So why are you dreaming about something so sinister? It could be that something in your life (or relationship) is mirroring a previous pattern or bad behaviors that you experienced. Since these dreams can serve as a warning, it can help you become more aware of what’s going on in your life — and fix what’s wrong.
More often than not, dreams about an ex are your mind’s way of dealing with something that’s gone wrong in your real life. But before you dismiss the dream, be sure to honor it for the message your mind is trying to reveal to you. “Dreams about our ex more often relate to our personal journey of transformation,” says Winquist. “They can be a source of great wisdom about our true need to find love, acceptance, and understanding.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org