Sex & Relationships

Can’t Stop Dreaming About Your Ex? Here’s Exactly What It Means

written by HAILEY BOUCHE
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Source: Karolina Grabowska | Pexels
Source: Karolina Grabowska | Pexels

I don’t know what’s worse: dreaming that you’re being chased or dreaming about an ex. Both are their own special kind of nightmare that makes me wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat and confusion. Knowing that I am not the only one who experiences this from time to time is the only thing that gives me a slight sense of relief, but it still leaves me wondering why the heck it happens at all.

I’ve done enough “what does [insert oddly specific scenario] dream mean” Google searches in my life to know that all dreams have some sort of meaning, so of course, after not being able to go back to bed, I went looking for answers.

If you, like me, are dying to know how common this is, what the key reasons for it are, if you should be concerned or feel guilty, and what the heck you can do about it, I asked Certified Dream Analyst Lauri Loewenberg for the answers and am sharing them ahead.

You’re not alone if you have dreams about your ex

There isn’t a hard and fast statistic that can quantify how common dreams with an ex are, but Loewenberg assures us that it is one of her top-asked questions—and that says a lot considering she has analyzed and researched over 75,000 dreams since she got certified as a Dream Analyst in 1996 and her most watched TikTok video is the one where she dives into details on this topic. So if you’ve experienced this, you are not alone in the slightest. “Whether it is our most recent ex or our first love from years and years ago, we all dream of our exes from time to time,” Loewenberg says.

5 underlying issues that can cause an ex to appear in dreams

Exes can appear in our dreams in a number of ways, but they all have a meaning. Depending on what underlying issue you are experiencing, you can pinpoint what the meaning of the dream is. I asked Loewenberg to explain the top five underlying issues that people experience, what dreams they might be having, and why, and her explanation of each is fascinating. Here is what she had to say:

Lingering Love

“Dreams caused by lingering love are usually connected to being dumped by someone we were crazy about. It is a particularly painful experience and an enormous blow to the ego, and it often leaves us with so many questions: What did I do wrong? Why wasn’t I good enough? Is there any way I can win this person back? Will I ever get over this person?

Below is a list of dreams you may have if you have lingering love and what the reason for those dreams is, according to Loewenberg.

  • You get back together with the ex: This is a wish fulfillment dream.
  • You are breaking into their home: This is connected to the desire to understand what happened. The home represents their mindset and breaking in is the desire to get in their head.
  • You dream the ex apologizes and tells you they still love you: This is a bit of wish fulfillment as well as the subconscious desire to feel good about ourselves again.

Emotional Dissatisfaction in a Current Relationship/Sexual Dissatisfaction

Especially if it’s been years since you’ve been with your ex or if they were your first real love, “the subconscious begins to miss the spice and the bubbles of first-time love,” explains Loewenberg. This can happen when you’re in a relationship that has become “a little too comfortable and routine,” she added.

Loewenberg says that our first love “becomes imprinted into our psyche and will forever subconsciously represent love, desire, and passion,” so your desire to reconnect with or revive what your ex represented may cause you to have the following dreams:

  • You are having sex with them
  • You are getting back together
  • You are searching for them
  • You see them out and about and are trying to get their attention
  • You are trying to save them from some sort of death or danger

Dissatisfaction With Current Life Circumstances

Believe it or not, your dream isn’t always about your ex. “Sometimes people in our dreams can represent who we were when they were in our life; they serve as a landmark in time,” explained Loewenberg.

Here is an example of a dream you could have if you have this underlying issue and its meaning:

  • If you dream of getting back together with your ex or having sex with them: This doesn’t necessarily mean you desire them, but it could mean that “you desire who you were or what your life was like when you were with them,” says Loewenberg.

Resentment/Unresolved Feelings About the Ex

If you were cheated on or in an abusive relationship, that leaves a deep imprint in your psyche which could lead to dreams where your ex appears in them. “If it’s been many years since you were together, these dreams may indicate [that] some current situation or current person is causing you to feel victimized again,” explained Loewenberg. She added that dreams can borrow from the past in order to warn us not to fall into those habits or situations again.

Here is an example of a dream you could have if you have this underlying issue and its meaning:

  • You dream you are being yelled at or cheated on: This could mean that you are experiencing PTSD or you are still upset with yourself for being in that relationship.
Source: @ashbegash

Resolved Feelings About the Ex

We dream to problem solve, so if you are dreaming about your ex when your feelings are resolved with them and there is no bad blood, it is rare. However, “when it comes to abusive or horrible exes, we can sometimes dream that we are back in a relationship with them and things are great,” says Loewenberg. This could be because we have come to peace with our past and have realized that it made us stronger. “We no longer have shame or distrust or anger or fear but rather have grown and accepted that part of our life as a building block into who we are now,” she added.

When, if at all, should you be concerned?

As mentioned earlier, dreaming about an ex is totally normal whether it’s a recent ex or it’s one from years ago. “The only time to have concern about dreaming of an ex is when the dreams have become incessant for a long period of time and are negatively affecting your waking thoughts and mood,” says Loewenberg.

If this is happening, pinpoint the emotions you are experiencing in your dream and apply them to your real life. “Is anything going on in your life right now that is making you feel the same or similar way that you felt in the dream? If so, that is the issue your subconscious wants you to correct,” she explained.

If you are in a relationship, should you feel guilty?

This might be hard to believe, but sometimes dreaming about an ex can be constructive for your current relationship. For example, “If you are in a relationship but have dreamed of getting back with your ex or hooking up with your ex, it doesn’t necessarily mean you want the ex back, but rather there may be something about that ex [or] something about the dynamic within that relationship that you would like to incorporate into your current one,” assures Loewenberg. But if you actively, consciously yearn for an ex while you’re in a relationship and that’s leaking into your subconscious and making you dream about them too, that’s the only time guilt is warranted, according to Loewenberg.

So… what should you do about it now?

Loewenberg always says that “dreams are messages from you, to you, [and] about you… in order to improve you.” Read that again! Even if dreaming about your ex sends you spiraling, remember that there is a purpose and that you can learn from it. “Once you are able to pinpoint the issue the dream is trying to shine a light on, you should definitely take action. For example, if your dream is showing you that you are bringing distrust from a former relationship into your current one, start working to let go of it,” she explains.

Loewenberg’s parting words of wisdom and advice are this: “The action you take will be specific to your issue, but it is crucial to take action and work in partnership with your dreams because they are guiding you toward becoming the best you that you can be… if you pay attention to them.”