What It Really Means When You Dream About Your Ex
I keep having dreams about my ex.
I wake up and feel disoriented, trying to figure out what is real and what isn’t, and more than anything, what the hell do these dreams mean? Why were we just hooking up in a closet? And why is his new girlfriend on “The Bachelorette”?
I spoke to Lauri Loewenberg, a certified dream analyst and top-selling author, about what dreams about your ex really mean and, most importantly, what we can do to control them.
“Your ex is one of the most common people that appears in dreams,” Lauri assured me. She added that usually, the exes that pop up most are either 1. your first love or 2. an ex who treated you particularly badly.
Whatever you see in a dream is representing something else in your life, she continued. You can figure out what the people in your dreams symbolize by asking yourself to describe them. What comes to mind? Was your ex controlling? Maybe you’re having an issue with a different controlling person in your waking life. Was your ex blonde? Maybe a blonde you know IRL is making your life hell.
“It’s just a game of connecting the dots,” Lauri said.
Connect the dots, sounds easy enough. But what if I’m dreaming of screwing my ex on a balcony? Surely that has to be at least a little literal?
Nope, it’s totally not.
“The thing about sex dreams is that they’re rarely about sex at all,” Lauri told me. “Rather than being about a physical union you want, they are more about a psychological union you need. So dreaming of sex with the first love is likely to be more about uniting that mindset into your current self, the mindset of a fresh, exciting, passionate relationship into your current thoughts and behaviors.”
And if you’re dreaming of a horrible ex, maybe your mind is asking you to heal and forgive.
One of the most disheartening ex dreams is the kind that surfaces when you’re seeing someone new. It sucks when you wholeheartedly believe you’ve supposedly moved on from the past relationship, and you’re already in a new relationship — and before you know it, dreams about your ex-lover are surfacing again.
Lauri has an explanation.
“The first love, for example, tends to show up when we are in a dry spell or when our current relationship has gotten a bit routine,” she said. “When we were with our first love, it was the first time we experienced passion, being desired, always wanting to be together.”
So your subconscious is using your ex’s face as a symbol of those feelings. How did your ex make you feel? What’s your current attitude about them? Try to figure out how that relates to your current relationship, and you’ll understand why your brain is pulling his face back into your mind.
I figured that having seen my ex a few times recently (oops) might have contributed to the dreams. But they still seemed to pop up at the most random times. What’s up with that?
“Nothing in a dream is ever random.” Lauri said. “ You can always connect the dots between your dream and something in your current life. It’s important to remember that dreams are symbolic not literal.”
If you keep dreaming about your high school love, for example, maybe your current relationship is sorely in need of those butterflies you felt as a teenager.
“These dreams aren’t necessarily about the first love but about what he represents,” Lauri said.
And the horrible ex?
“He tends to show up in our dreams when something is currently happening in our life that makes us feel the way he did,” Lauri said. “Maybe old familiar patterns are starting to show up in your current relationship. Or maybe someone else in your life is making you feel horrible about yourself.”
If your subconscious is drifting back to an abusive or traumatic relationship, you might not have fully let go of the anger, fear, distrust, and resentment you felt then. Not to mention, these dreams can be a sign that you’re bringing those bad vibes into your current relationship, Lauri said.
If any of the aforementioned dream scenarios keeps happening to you again and again, that’s even more of an indication that you might need to do some soul searching.
“Recurring dreams are connected to ongoing issues or recurring issues or behaviors,” Lauri says. “These dreams are like a nagging mother who only wants the best for you, but has to keep telling you the same thing over and over again until you finally get it.”
Okay, so dreams about your ex are pretty much unavoidable. Get used to it. But the best thing about them is they don’t necessarily mean that you still have feelings for that person.
“The feelings we experience in a dream are very, very real, so it’s perfectly understandable that they can take us right back to how we used to feel, and make us wonder if the feelings are indeed for your ex,” Lauri said.
But you have to keep in mind that the dream is not about the ex, but what he represents.
“It’s not about the past, but what you need right now,” Lauri said. “Ask yourself how you can apply those feelings to your present life.”
Even if you feel happy or excited or passionate about seeing your ex within the dream, this might not mean you still have feelings for him. The passion you’re feeling in the dream could be passion in a much broader sense. Sometimes, Lauri says, it’s actually representative of the passion you’d apply toward a project or goal.
“We often ‘fall in love’ with ideas and goals, so to speak, so it could very well about something that you yearn to work on or experience,” Lauri said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be in love with your career or in love with a hobby. It keeps you focused and helps you to make accomplishments.”
The best thing about all of this? You really do have control over your subconcious, whether you believe it or not.
“Your dreams are merely an honest reflection of where you are in the post-relationship phase and can be utilized as means to measure your healing,” Lauri said.
Now that you understand your ex is just a face to put on your current stresses or desires, there is a way to combat these dreams if you’re still trying to get him the hell out of your sleeping mind. Lauri broke it down for me. Just follow these steps before bedtime, right before you turn out your lights, and your ex dreams will be dunzo.
1. Write a letter (physically or mentally) to your dreaming brain and let it know you really would like to move on from the hold this relationship has on you. Write down everything you recognize was wrong in the relationship and how you would love to release it from your heart and mind.
2. Request a new dream. You can even write down an example of a dream you would like to have. Be creative! In the dream world there are no rules!
3. Write out a scenario where you tell your ex that you understand he was in your life to help you learn and grow. Lesson learned, so now you are ready to release him.
Here’s Lauri’s favorite way to imagine it: “Escort him out of your house. Close the door as he walks out. Press the bright red button on your wall and watch as a shiny red Viper rises up out of the floor. Hop in and start the engine. Watch as your walls open to reveal an open road and stunning pink sky. Ride off into your bright future!”
“Okay, that’s kind of a corny example,” she said, “but that’s what it takes. By doing this you are retraining your brain to look forward instead of back. You are ultimately a product of your own thoughts and choices. Choose to change your thoughts, even your night thoughts, and your life will change.”