Home     About       Contact

Recurring Dreams About Your Ex? Here's What It Means

by Jimmy Leonard | Updated 25 Feb 2024

Sueño Labs does not provide medical advice. See our terms and disclaimers.

A man and a woman speaking at a cafe table, illustrated
Microsoft Bing Image Creator Powered by Dall-E. This Image Was Generated with AI.

So you had a bizarre, vivid, possibly sensual dream about your ex. That’s awkward.

But it’s also normal! And no, even if they wanted you back in the dream world, it does not mean that your current real-world relationship is in shambles. If anything, it may be the opposite. Dreams are a window into our emotions, and seeing your ex pop up on the shores of your subconscious could be a healthy sign of processing your past or working through a present-day conflict.

Remember, your dream self is not your real self, and it is not a sign of immaturity or even infidelity to encounter an ex-partner in the dream world. Psychologists offer a few theories as to why we sometimes dream of people from our past, and they all revolve around self-awareness and emotional health. That said, if you’d rather not have recurring dreams about someone you’re no longer attached to, there are a few tricks to get them out of your subconscious mind. Here’s what you should know.

Dreaming About Your Ex

Dream People Are Metaphors

When you see people in your dreams, they are just figments of your imagination. You know this, right? No matter how realistic someone seems, they aren’t real.

It sounds simple, but this is something we often forget when we dream about an important person such as a parent, child, or even an ex-partner. Even if these characters are shaped by your memories of those people, your subconscious is not focusing on the complexities of a real-world relationship. In fact, people from your past are common dream signs. If you’re having recurring dreams about your ex, it may be helpful to mentally separate your real-life ex-partner and the dream-character version of them.

According to a 2015 survey of dream reports, people currently in relationships were about twice as likely to dream of an ex when compared to single people. This suggests that we dream about relationships — as in the abstract concept — when it’s top of the mind, just like we might dream about work during a season of working long hours. Your subconscious mind is likely processing what’s going on with you in your current relationship, not making a statement about a real person from your past.

What Does Dreaming About Your Ex Mean?

So dreaming of your ex is a metaphor, but for what? Psychologists have thrown out a number of possible latent emotional motivations, including:

  • Unresolved feelings, including anger, loss, or guilt
  • Seeking love in relationally difficult circumstances
  • Longing for simplicity or escape from current problems
  • A challenge to spark romance or pursue your current partner
  • Processing past trauma that’s affecting your present relationships

In any case, it’s an invitation to be introspective. You might wake up feeling emotionally affected, perhaps guilty, ashamed, or even angry that you were mentally spending time with an ex-partner, but remember that the symbolism is about your life and how you’re handling your emotional and mental priorities right now. It should not be taken as a sign that you need to get back together.

Should You Tell Your Ex You Had a Dream About Them?

Probably not.

Hey, I’m not telling you how to live your life, but put the shoe on the other foot for a moment. If you randomly got a text that was all like “Hey babe, I miss you, I had a dream about you last night,” how would you react? Telling your ex about a dream is somewhere between pathetically desperate and emotionally manipulative, and that’s not a good spectrum to be on.

If there are real, waking-world reasons you want to rekindle the relationship, you’re better off pursuing them in other ways without playing the dream card.

Should You Tell Your Partner You Had a Dream About Your Ex?

Now we’re asking the real questions. No one size fits all here — you know your partner better than anyone. Be discerning, respectful, and loving in however you choose to approach this.

If you had an upsetting or unsettling dream, it may be good for you to talk about it, but focus on how the dream made you feel, not so much the details of what happened. Not because dreaming about an ex is anything to be ashamed of — it’s not — but because the dream is ultimately about you and your emotional state. That’s the important part to process.

On the other hand, if you weren’t particularly affected by the dream or your current relationship is strained already, it may harm more than it helps to describe your unexpected subconscious encounter with an ex-lover. Ask, “Is the risk of them perceiving this badly greater than the benefit of telling them about it?” You have plenty of other dreams each night anyway. Choose a different one to talk about over your morning coffee.

What If the Dream Is Recurring?

First, a distinction: A recurring character in your dreams is not necessarily a recurring dream. For example, maybe you dream about your best friend a few times per month, but the situation is usually different and it’s often because you recently had a conversation or interaction with them in real life.

But if the same type of thing is happening, maybe you keep having dreams that you’re at a party and your ex pulls you aside to apologize for something, pay attention to those details. Psychologist Kelly Bulkeley says recurring dreams are often a warning — not a “you’re in danger” warning, but more like a mental flag on a situation in your waking life. Maybe you’re in a similar situation that you were in before, and your mind is advising you to not repeat the same mistakes. Or, maybe there’s a new opportunity in your life, and your brain is urging you to take it.

Once again, the ex him- or herself is rarely the point. To use my example above, maybe you’re wrestling with how to make amends in an important relationship, and your brain is showing you scenes of a person who never apologized finally doing it, as if to say, “If they can apologize, so can you!” The dream features your ex, but it’s about you and your life.

Can You Stop Dreaming About Your Ex?

If you’re wondering if you can stop having dreams about your ex, that in itself could be a sign of unresolved conflict. Perhaps you need to forgive them, or forgive yourself, for your subconscious mind to move on.

But hey, that’s not the answer you’re looking for. You want to kick them to the curb the minute they show up in your dream world. Training in lucid dreaming can certainly help with this. By recognizing your dream state, you can consciously throw out the characters you don’t want there. Actually, to be precise, it’s easier to remove yourself from the situation rather than tell them to leave. Why? If you tell a dream character to get lost, your brain now has to invent some plot details in reaction (“Hmm, what would she do in this moment?”), but if you make a decision to exit the scene and go somewhere else, that’s easier to process. Make a door or a portal, and leave. Lucid dreaming is an effective way to combat nightmares and sleep more peacefully, so if your dreams about your ex are bordering on “nightmare” territory, it’s worth giving it a shot.

In any case, remember that humans are hardwired as relational beings, and it’s completely normal to dream about the people who have been or currently are significant in your life, even if it’s your ex.

Discover More

Jimmy Leonard

Jimmy Leonard

Jimmy is a marketing content strategist and copywriter who moonlights as the editor of Sueño Labs. He's an advocate for self-awareness and emotional intelligence, and, on a more serious note, he recommends Taylor Swift songs to get through a breakup.

© 2024 Sueño Labs                 Contact                 Sitemap                  Terms and Disclaimers

This website is hosted by SiteGround. It’s amazing. Use our referral link to save on a super-fast hosting plan.