Dreams, we’ve all had them, as horrible as they may be. However, what does it mean when you dream about your ex? Keep reading to find out the surprising truth.
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Dreams, at least the ones we can remember when we wake up, can sometimes boggle our minds. But nothing can shock, confuse, and cause a flurry of emotions (good or bad) more than a dream about an old flame, recent or otherwise.
What an extreme inconvenience, right? You’ve cried over it, maybe have gotten over the drunk-texting-your-ex stage, and most likely have moved on with your life. So why is their stupid face creeping up on your peaceful sleep? The nerve!
But wonder no more! We’ve tried to unmask all the possible reasons an ex-lover is intruding in your dreams.
Spoiler alert: Dreaming about your ex doesn’t necessarily mean they are thinking about you or that you want to get back together.
13 Reasons Why You Might Be Dreaming About An Ex
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As annoying as dreams about an ex can be, especially if you’re already with a new partner, it’s not all bad. Like the certified dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg says, dreaming about your past flame is super common. And in some freaky way, that dream might not even be about that particular ex-boyfriend or girlfriend at all!
Here are possible reasons why a former flame is guest-starring in your dreams, or should we call that a nightmare?
But first, let’s get all these out of the way: a few reasons for dreams about an ex related to them or your still lingering feelings for them.
1. You Recently Saw Your Ex-Boyfriend or Girlfriend
For example, you might have ‘accidentally’ seen their photo on social media, seen them from afar at the grocery store parking lot, or literally bumped into them while on a grocery run. We can come up with plenty of different scenarios here, but one thing’s for sure, seeing your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend can be a massive trigger for their appearance in your dreams.
According to research, dreams often incorporate events from your waking hours. It can either be a day-residue effect or dreaming about the event from the preceding day, or a dream-lag effect or dreaming about something seven days later.
2. Unresolved Feelings or Issues with an Ex
One of the possible reasons you might be dreaming about an ex is that you still don’t feel at peace with how your relationship ended or haven’t had any emotional closure. Before you go into defensive mode, remember that these ‘unresolved issues’ or feelings don’t have to be romantic. It doesn’t even mean you want to get back with them.
However, whether you also wanted the breakup, the thing is, the moment doesn’t always go as planned. Maybe you said some things you didn’t mean. Or, perhaps you wish you had behaved differently. Maybe, they said something that truly hurt and stayed with you until now.
These issues and intense feelings of sadness, frustration, anger, or jealousy trigger that past person to intrude on your dream.
3. Similar Concerns in Your Current Relationship
Getting over a past relationship is a complicated process for many of us. But what’s even more difficult is taking that second chance in love, especially if your last relationship ended badly.
Maybe your ex cheated on you or ghosted you, and you’re afraid that someone else, maybe your present partner, will do the same thing. Or maybe, your past lover was a lying piece and dreaming about them and past wounds reflects your present concerns in your current relationship.
Your unconscious mind might be picking up that your current relationship is going down the same path, giving you the same feelings you had before.
4. You Miss the Life You Have with Them
Another reason you might be seeing your past flame in your dreams is that there is something about yourself or your life with them that you miss.
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Maybe it was something you did together, like going to concerts or watching comedy movies every weekend. Or, you miss going to places you often visited when you were still together, like when they finally convinced you to try camping.
You might be yearning for happiness or other positive emotions attached to that time period. That missing piece that you want back isn’t necessarily the person.
Plus, if things ended on good terms between you two (lucky you), there’s a high chance that the good things in your relationship have stayed in your subconscious.
5. You Might Not Just Be Quite Over Them Yet
Pros have said that dreams about your ex don’t always mean that you hope to get back together. Well, this is not one of those.
You’re not actually over them. Figures. No wonder they crowd your dreams as much as they crowd your mind in your current life.
Maybe you still miss your ex or think of them constantly and have a hard time moving past the relationship as you hoped. Like Sigmund Freud proposed, dreams could function as a wish-fulfillment that reveals our deeply repressed desires during our waking hours.
Although this one is not the most likely reason for you to dream about your ex, there is still a possibility that it might be. And it’s an excellent chance to take a deep look inside yourself to figure out if you still have some deep-seated hope of getting back with them.
6. Your Ex Symbolizes Something Else Significant
A literal interpretation of dreams means that what happened in a particular dream will or could happen in your waking life. But, that is not the case, as dreams are most often symbolic.
It means that dreams depend on what the people, places, and things in them, including your ex-lover, symbolize. Loewenberg suggests that dreams are not so much about the ex-lover but what they represent. And that can be a plethora of things.
One good way to interpret your dream, in this case, is to ask yourself what memories or feelings this dream or the person makes you connect with. Answering this question can give you a roadmap of what your ex represents.
7. You Might Be Feeling Lonely or Anxious
There are a few reasons why your ex is landing in your dreams, and one of them is that you’re simply feeling lonely or anxious these days. Maybe you recently got a lot more free time than you would like, and naturally, that leads to a lot of thinking that you probably appreciate.
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All these negative feelings and thoughts sometimes play as triggers, bringing you back to the life when you felt the same. Maybe, the heightened anxiety you’re feeling right now brought about another anxiety-inducing event in your dreams.
It could be that time you kept waiting for your past lover to come when he said he would but didn’t, or a bad breakup, or another painful event in the relationship.
8. Craving Intimacy
Dreaming about an ex-partner could mean that you missed the time of your life when you had someone with you. Maybe, the feeling was brought about by being alone for a long time, giving you feelings of longing for love or closeness with other people.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that you crave your relationship with your ex, but intimate connections in general. It could be longing for emotional connections with your family or friends.
9. You’re Dealing with Some Conflict in Your Life
A past lover in your dream could be another symbol that something entirely unrelated to them in your real life is making you unhappy or unsatisfied. Such conflict can bring out the same negative feelings or friction from the past.
Say one of your friends spilled your deepest, darkest secret that you shared with them in confidence during a truth or dare game. Though you brushed it off as part of a game, you might see your ex in your dreams because your subconscious mind used your “ex” as a representation of the betrayal your felt.
Another is that the ex in the dream could simply mean something that’s causing so much conflict in your present life and dragging you down that you have to “break up with.”
10. Crave Change in Your Life
You can likely tell by now that your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend in your dreams can simply symbolize all sorts of things. One is that an ex represents a part of your real life that is over and gone for good. Your ex being back, at least in your dreams, could mean that you’re ready for another significant shift in your life.
This change could be a new job, buying a new house, living in another city, or future relationships blossoming, utterly unrelated to the past person.
11. You’re Current Relationship May Need Some TLC
Even if you’re happy and content with your current person, it’s normal for there to have some things you wish could be or go better in your relationship. If you’re dreaming about your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, you may be having some trouble in paradise with your present partner.
It could be that your current partner isn’t giving you something that your ex did, could be unmet needs emotionally or otherwise. Or, your present partner might be doing something that your ex used to do, causing tension in your relationship.
In this case, dreaming about an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend means an unmet need with your current partner needs to be addressed.
12. You’re Simply Working Through a Past Trauma
Another possible reason for dreaming about a previous lover may be recalling or working through some past traumas you’ve experienced. Trauma and any other stressful emotion during waking time can significantly impact your dreams.
These issues could be from childhood or your previous entanglement. Either way, when they are left unresolved, these issues can follow you from one relationship to another.
In other words, that ex-boyfriend or girlfriend in your dreams could simply be a symbol or stand-in about a much larger roadblock you need to figure out in your real life.
13. Finally Moving On
An ex shows up in your dreams might be because the business is actually finished. You’re over it. You’ve moved on. You’re ready for better things. Finally!
As unwelcome as it might be, this dream about a past lover could actually be a really great thing, a sign of progress, especially if the breakup has broken you. It could be a sign that you’re finally separating from that period of your life or healing the part of you that got injured in the process.
Explaining Different Dream Scenarios Starring Your Ex
Sometimes, dreams are vague. Other times, they seem so real it’s scary. And before you overthink about it, here are a few common specific scenarios in your sleep starring your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend and what they could mean.
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Dream about your first love.
Whether you are currently single (and loving it) or happily with someone new, old flames can find themselves starring brightly when you sleep. According to Loewenberg, the old lover people tend to dream about the most is their first love. But this kind of dream is not about your first love at all. And it certainly doesn’t mean you’re still pining over them after all these years.
Usually, this kind of dream happens when life is going exciting for you or if your life or current love life needs a little something to keep things exciting.
A dream about an abusive ex.
Some dreams about a past lover can be sweet and romantic ones, but otherwise, they can be somewhat scary. For example: dreaming about a toxic or abusive ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. Whether they were mentally or physically abusive, this kind of dream is often a response to the trauma you’ve gone through.
If this is the dream you’re having, you’re most likely still trying to understand or find the answers about what happened in that abusive relationship during your waking hours.
A dream about a cheating ex.
If a cheating ex frequently appears in your dreams, it’s a massive indication that there are still negative emotions like anger, distrust, and resentment you haven’t let go of. Again, it’s not about your ex, but what feelings remained even after they are gone from your life.
If you’re currently with someone new and you dream about a cheating ex, it might serve as a warning that you’re still harboring those negative emotions in your new relationship.
You are fighting with an ex in the dream.
Any dream about an old lover where there is conflict, whether an argument or physical altercation, strongly indicates conflicts you’re experiencing in your waking life. Remember, it’s not about the ex by about you and the internal conflict you have.
What you need to do is find out what your ex represents in that dream to figure out what that conflict could mean.
Dream about an ex pregnant with your child.
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Before you freak out, pregnancy dreams are usually positive, even if that dream includes the face of your long-ago ex. The likely dream analysis for this is that you’ve learned lessons from that relationship or that it helped you grow.
It’s a classic one, but, again, it doesn’t mean you’re still secretly pining over your past love. These dreams usually represent love, passion, excitement, or the feeling of desire in your waking life or the lack thereof.
Analyzing your dream and what it means will help you find out what sparks are lacking in your real life.
Any sort of dream starring a recent ex.
If the breakup happened pretty recently, your subconscious might be trying to tell you that you’re still processing your feelings after the split. And it’s totally fine! It’s just that you need time to heal and find closure. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to talk to your ex.
A dream about stealing from an ex.
Whether it’s a dream about breaking through their house or car to steal something, these dreams usually suggest that you’re still broken up over all the why’s of your split. It’s a sign that you’re yet to find closure. Or, you’re still in the stage where you’re trying to understand the other person’s mindset or reasoning.
These dreams usually happen if you’re fresh off a breakup, usually something the dumpee experiences instead of the person who did the dumping.
Breaking up all over again with an ex in your dreams.
First, is the breakup recent? Cut yourself some slack.
You’re most likely still processing what happened. But if the split happened a long time ago, you need to take a closer look at what is currently happening in your life. Are you feeling rejected or turned down? Maybe a friend moved to another city. Did someone turn you down?
A dream that your ex is in physical danger.
Wait, what are you doing in the dream? Are you helping your ex, trying to save them? If so, the dream could mean that there’s something about your previous relationships that you want to salvage. Maybe it was your self-worth or confidence that got lost during the breakup.
But if you’re not playing the hero and saving an ex in your dreams, then it’s good. It’s a good sign that you’ve finally accepted that they are out of your life for good. And, you are okay with it.
Dream about a dead ex.
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Congratulations, bestie! You’ve gotten there. You’ve moved past your ex and have let go of the past. They are no longer living rent-free in your mind, heart, and your life!
A dream that an ex is killing you.
It could mean all sorts of things. Murder is considered a forced end or change.
Another way to look at this dream is, how did that breakup change you? Did it kill your self-worth? Maybe it crushed your ability to trust? Did it kill your belief that love exists?
A dream that you’re killing your ex.
No, you don’t have secret violent tendencies! A dream about killing an ex boyfriend or girlfriend is actually a good thing, at least for you. Death in dreams usually signifies the end of something, whether in real life or within you.
If it’s a forced death like murder, it means you’ve finally found the closure you need to move on. Or, you have decided to shove the past where it belongs. If it’s about a recent ex, odds are you’re actively choosing to end all ties with that ex.
A dream about an old flame already dating someone else.
Oh, that’s cool! You’ve finally got over it. You’ve developed a healthy attitude and have come to terms that they are moving on with their life without you. Maybe you’ve moved on too. Or, this could be the sign that it’s time for you to go on with your life without them.
A dream about confronting an ex who ghosted you.
This dream could mean two things.
Firstly, it’s a psychological release for you. You’re freely expressing your disappointment, anger, and frustration over the previous relationship since you weren’t able to do it in person.
Secondly, it could be that your subconscious is playing very realistic scenarios, so the same [ghosting] event doesn’t happen to you. Or, if it does, you’ll know what to do about it.
A dream about an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend apologizing to you.
Oh, great. Finally! This dream is pretty common and can sometimes feel incredibly real, even after you wake up. Maybe, they are actually sorry about what they did.
But that’s further from the truth. Dreaming about an ex telling you they are sorry or anything along those lines doesn’t mean they are really apologizing. It’s just you wanting that apology or hoping to get that apology from them.
Final Thoughts on What It Means When You Dream About an Ex
Again, recurring dreams about an old lover are not all bad. They don’t always indicate a lingering love, affection, or resentment towards that ex. Don’t read these dreams like a by-the-book script of your current waking life because they are usually not.
If you want to find deeper meaning in your dreams, maybe consider writing everything in a dream journal. It will help you identify patterns, feelings, and themes.
Have you ever had dreams about an old love? What was it about? How did you feel upon waking? Let us know in the comments.