Dreaming About an Ex: Why This Happens and What to Do

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Do you keep dreaming about your ex? Do you wonder why you’re having these dreams and what they mean? Do the dreams upset you or confuse you, as you try to figure out what they’re trying to tell you?

This article explores some reasons why you may keep dreaming about your ex and some steps that can help you explore the meanings of these dreams.

It’s Not Uncommon to Dream About an Ex

It’s not uncommon to dream about people in your life, including ex partners, says Vijayeta Sinh, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in relationships. 

For instance, Dr. Sinh says you might dream about people who are meaningful to you in some way, such as your partner, children, friends, or pets. “Sometimes this can also include people who are in the periphery of your life such as a neighbor, boss, colleague, or old friend.” 

As for ex partners, Dr. Sinh says you may be more likely to dream about them if you still have an emotional connection with them after your relationship with them has ended.

What Does Dreaming About Your Ex Mean?

Your dreams about your ex partner may feature emotionally charged events such as arguments, conflicts, moments of fun, laughter, or physical intimacy, says Dr. Sinh. These dreams can feel extremely vivid and lifelike, because dreams can engage all your senses and feature sensations like touch, taste, sound, smell, sight, movement, and emotions.

Dreams about your ex may leave you disturbed if they make you wonder whether it’s a mistake to not be with them anymore. Or, if you’re in a relationship with someone else, dreaming about your ex may make you feel guilty and ashamed, even if the thought of cheating hasn’t crossed your mind while you’re awake.

The exact reasons why we dream are still unknown, although there are several theories. However, research shows us that dreaming may help us process and consolidate our emotional memories, and develop greater insights.

“Dreams are an interesting way to examine the workings of our minds—they can sometimes be reflective of our unconscious hopes, desires, fantasies and unfulfilled wishes. In order to determine the meaning of dreams, we need to pay closer attention to the themes they point to, not necessarily the content they depict,” says Dr. Sinh.

If you dream frequently about your ex, Dr. Sinh says you may want to think about any unresolved feelings you have about them or any fears, insecurities, and desires being activated in the dreams.

For instance, an emotional dream about your ex where you argue with them could indicate that you’re subconsciously still working through some unresolved emotions from your break-up with them. Your subconscious may be helping you heal by giving you an opportunity to explore, process, and resolve your emotions around the situation.

Or, a dream where you’re intimate with them could indicate a desire for more friendship and connection in your life, although not necessarily with your ex. They may have featured in your dream because that’s when you last experienced it, or because they were your first love and you associate them with intimacy.

It’s important to note that dreaming about an ex doesn’t necessarily mean that:

  • You want to get back together with them
  • You believe you’re meant to be with them
  • You’re unhappy in your current relationship
  • You have any desire to cheat on your current partner

What to Do If You Keep Dreaming About Your Ex

These are some steps you can take to explore the meanings of your dreams, according to Dr. Sinh:

  • Maintain a dream diary: Even though your dreams may feel very vivid when you wake up, they can fade over time. Keeping a journal by your bedside where you note down your dreams and the feelings you’re experiencing can help you preserve the memory as well as track themes and patterns in your dreams.
  • Reflect on your dreams: It can be helpful to spend some time reflecting on your dreams and introspecting about how they make you feel. Your feelings can serve as a guide that can help you further understand the meaning of your dreams.
  • Develop self-awareness: To be more self-aware means to be more mindful and have greater insight into your thoughts and feelings. Being more self-aware can help you be more cognizant of your subconscious wishes, desires, needs, and conflicts.
  • Discuss it with your partner: Honesty is always a good policy in relationships, so if you're seeing someone but having frequent dreams of your ex that are surprising and alarming to you or you believe are relaying some important information about how you feel in your current relationship, it may be worth discussing those with your partner, says Dr. Sinh.
  • Seek therapy: Talking about your dreams with a therapist can also help you explore the meanings of your dreams and uncover any old wounds that need tending to, according to Dr. Sinh.

A Word From Verywell

Dreaming about your ex partner can bring up confusing feelings that you may not know what to do with. Even if you’re completely over your ex or in a relationship with someone else, you may find yourself wondering what these dreams mean. 

It’s important to note that rather than being literal indicators of our subconscious needs and wishes, dreams are often metaphorical clues. “Introspection, self-awareness, journaling, and therapy can sometimes help us uncover deeper feelings that are hard to accept or easy to deny or minimize,” says Dr. Sinh.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.