In psychology there has always been an interest in knowing the meaning of dreams. Authors like Freud and Jung tried to elucidate what could represent the symbols that each one can see in their own dream world.
Many patients, concerned about what they have witnessed while immersed in that world that only seems to present itself in the depths of the dark night, wonder: what does it mean to dream about your ex?
While this doesn’t necessarily mean that we are obsessed with our exes, it does mean that it can have certain implications, which we will discuss below.
What does it mean to dream about your ex-partner?
As Calderón de la Barca said several centuries ago, ‘life is a dream, and dreams are dreams’, that is, our daily reality and the world that is projected when we go to sleep are not so separated from each other. They seem to interact in one way or another, the diurnal, but subconscious, needs and desires being represented in a more symbolic way in our dreams.
Psychoanalysis, in the hands of authors such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, tried to elucidate the possible meaning of the dream world, looking for any clue that would explain both the psychopathology of their patients and possible problems whose cause did not seem to be earthly. They concluded that dreams represent aspects of our lives that are stored in the subconscious , and that we cannot find a solution to them while we are awake.
This is why dreaming about an ex can be interpreted as something especially worrying, especially if we are already dating a new partner. The fact that our previous boyfriend or girlfriend appears in our dreams, as if it were a ghost, causes us dread because we can interpret it as an indicator that we are not comfortable with our partner or that we are still in love or even obsessed with our previous relationship.
Although psychoanalysis has contributed to psychology taking shape, and its vision of the dream world is made from a relatively scientific perspective, there is no empirical evidence that the psychoanalytic postulates about dreams are true, although they are certainly interesting.
When does it become a concern?
Dreaming about an ex is not as dramatic as it might at first seem . Although it can be interpreted as a sign that we don’t have that overgrown relationship, the truth is that these kinds of dreams are very common, even if we are happily married or married to the love of our life. There are many reasons that may be behind this phenomenon, without necessarily being a matter of concern.
The problem comes when these kinds of dreams become too common. We’re not talking about, at one point, while we’re sleeping, dreaming about that high school girlfriend or boyfriend, our first love, the first kiss or the last time we saw one of our previous relationships. Repeatedly dreaming about an ex is synonymous with the fact that something could go wrong with our current partner, and we should try to find a solution.
The main reason may be that, being in the current relationship, we feel a lack of affection or we are going through love problems , which make us think of relationships that, although they have already had their outcome, these, at some point in their history, were happier than the situation in which we find ourselves now.
However, there is another reason that is radically opposite to the previous one. The reason our ex comes to us in our dreams is not because we are living a worse relationship than the previous one, but because the end of our previous love affair ended so badly that there are still wounded to be healed. The outcome was so disastrous that, although we don’t want that relationship to resurface, we do believe that we need to put things right, in a way that is healthy for both ex-partners .
Another reason why these kinds of dreams appear is insecurity. It is normal that, when you start dating a new partner, the relationship is not seen as something stable, even though love comforts us pleasantly and we live in a world of fantasy and colour. The ghosts of past relationships and their failure, whether it is softer or more tragic, is something that influences the way we start a new relationship. Memories of our previous partners appear and make us think that, perhaps, this relationship will fail.
These memories make us aware of how unsuccessful our previous relationships were , however healthy their end was, they emerge while we sleep, as an indicator that we are watching the relationship and that there is a chance it will not go well. This can be bad, since it can make us believe that relationships are not our thing and that we will end up alone sooner or later, or very good, since it invites us to be careful and avoid making the same mistakes as in the previous ones.
Dreaming of your ex making love
While you can dream about an ex in many ways and in many contexts, copulating with him or her is something that is especially appealing to the individual who has had the dream. Given the obvious sexual nature of the dream, doubts about how satisfied one is in bed and not one’s current partner are not held up.
But, really, the meaning of this kind of dream, more than the simple fact of being sexually unpleasant with the current partner or that the previous relationship gave more pleasure in bed than we are now dating, is a little deeper. It may mean that we miss being intimate with that person , although it may be true that a part of us wants to consummate our most sexual and carnal desire. However, it can mean that we are not sexually satisfied with our current relationship.
It’s normal to have erotic dreams about an ex, since that person hasn’t gone through our lives like just anyone else. That person offered us stimuli, both sexual and other types but pleasant, which, at the time the relationship broke up, have stopped being received. These stimuli, as if they were drugs, had hooked our brains. Whether we are alone or with a new partner, we must try to get our mind used to living without the sensual stimuli of the previous relationship .
Your ex and someone else
Dreaming about an ex while making love is something that worries, but it turns out to be much more distressing to dream about that same person but while making love to your new partner. It is unpleasant, most of the time, to imagine how our ex, with whom we shared so much and who gave him so much intimacy, now lives in the most intimate way possible with another person who is simply not us.
We continue to maintain, unconsciously, a bond of relevance to that ex , despite the fact that the relationship has already been broken and, indeed, we are now linked to different people. Although we consciously know that we are not dating him or her, the feeling of seeing him or her with another person is one of jealousy.
What can we do?
As we were saying, dreaming about an ex does not necessarily mean something bad, but it is not superfluous to try to see what the origin of this dream is, especially if it becomes something recurrent and causes us discomfort once we open our eyes.
If the reason our ex comes to us in our dreams is that we think the relationship could have ended better, it’s not a bad option to try, after a while, to get back together with him or her. Time is necessary so that, in case the break-up was especially traumatic, the most superficial wounds heal while those we want to solve will become the reason why we want to see that person again.
It should be said that if we try to take this path, two situations may arise: either our ex wants to know absolutely nothing about us or something similar has happened to him, he wants to find a definitive and healthy solution to the tension and remain as friends or, at least, as adults who are capable of talking and fixing problems.
On the other hand, if the cause of all this is insecurity or a situation of special tension is being experienced with the current relationship, the best option is to go to couples therapy . Whether it is due to some kind of dissatisfaction in bed, or to conflicts of various kinds, the best way to avoid comparing our relationship with a previous one while we were asleep is to go to a professional, and explain the content of the dreams, relating them to the situation the couple is going through.
It is possible that, depending on the psychological current of the professional, he or she may opt for a more symbolic vision, as psychoanalysis does, or he or she may approach it in a more scientific way, focusing on the dynamics of the couple, presenting therapeutic programs that will take place both in the office and at home or in the space shared by both lovers.
- Frígola, V. B. (2000). Ortega, Freud, psychoanalysis and the interpretation of dreams. Journal of the History of Psychology, 21(2), 631-658.