Dream Meanings: Why Do I Dream About My Ex?

By: Donna Stannard

Updated February 19, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers

The things you dream about can say a lot about you. Your dreams can indicate the intense emotions that you are unwilling to face or express when you are conscious. The emotions that are represented in dreams can run deeply and may have more of an effect on you than you realize. Such strong feelings can include joy, stress, fear, sexuality, even anguish - and any or all these emotions can lead to dreams about your ex. However, it is the context of these dreams that explain why you are dreaming about them in the first place. A licensed mental health professional can be a powerful tool to help you figure out the underlying causes for dreaming about your ex (such as unresolved trauma or feelings of physical attraction).

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Why Do I Dream About My Ex?

There are several common interpretations regarding dreams about exes. Some are self-explanatory. For instance, if in your dream you want your ex-boyfriend back, it signifies that you miss him. On the other hand, it could also mean that you miss being in a relationship or feeling loved. You could have dreams about your ex-boyfriend proposing to you, but that does not mean that you wish to marry your ex or get back together with him or her. Instead, it could mean that you want to feel safe, happy, and complete again.

In other circumstances, you could dream that your ex-boyfriend has been hurt. If he was hurt in a hospital, then it could mean there might be something still going on between the two of you, but if he was hurt outside of a hospital, that could mean that you are over him.

For guys, if you dream about your ex-girlfriend being pregnant, it can mean one of two things. If the baby is yours, it might insinuate that you wish to start the relationship again. On the contrary, if the baby is not yours in the dream, it suggests that you have moved on.

Having dreams about ex-husbands or ex-wives may not necessarily imply that you have any feelings towards them. It could mean that you are facing difficulties in your life or you feel as if you are making the same mistakes in your current relationship as you did from your past relationship.


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As you see, there are many reasons why you would have a dream about your ex, most of which can seem overwhelming to absorb and quite confusing if you try to interpret them by yourself. If you want to talk to someone about your dreams, you can always speak with a certified therapist at BetterHelp, perhaps to express your feelings about your dreams or to look for answers that they can provide.

How Dreams Were Viewed in The Past

Egyptian and Greek societies as far back as 3000 years ago attached special meanings to dreams. Dreams were thought to be omens of future happenings and could offer predictions of the future. Prophets and shamans were revered for their special powers to interpret dreams and were sought by rulers who made military decisions based on the meanings of dreams. Artemidors, a dream interpreter, was engaged to interpret the dreams of Alexander the Great. He predicted Alexander would lead his troops and conquer foreign lands to the glory of Greece. The ancient Greeks believed that the sick and injured could be cured by paying attention to their dreams while they slept in temples for the sick, called Asclepieions.

In the Middle Ages, many Muslim scholars, such as Ibu Sirin, Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Shaheen and others wrote books of dream interpretations. The idea that dreams had meaning spread throughout their societies. In the 16th century, Chen Shiyuan wrote a book on the traditional dream-interpretations followed by early societies of China. Questions raised by early Chinese scholars are the basis of modern cognitive neuroscience.

By the 19th century in Europe, interpreting dreams was part of psychoanalysis. One of the most important works on dreams was written by Sigmund Freud and is still followed today. In 2009, a paper written by C. Morewedge and M. Norton was published in a psychology journal. In their scientific studies, they determined that most people, regardless of their nationality and education, believed that their dreams reveal hidden truths, and those dreams are more important than their thoughts while awake, a very Freudian view. However, not all dreams have the same importance; people tend to give more importance to dreams that confirm the beliefs and morals they hold in an awakened state.

It has never been determined why we dream; that is still an open question that no one has been able to answer, although some try. We all dream, maybe not every night, and not all dreams can be remembered. Some believe that we dream of snippets of ideas that we had the day before or of some anxiety we have. Some believe that it is our brain's way of processing events and ideas of what happened before they went to sleep. Our dreams are sparked by an event, a word, a conversation, something we saw on television or read in a book or newspaper.

Most modern theorists do not believe that dreams have hidden meanings. That has not stopped people from offering interpretations of dreams, and it has become a source of entertainment. It would be wrong to base your life on trying to find the meanings of your dreams. However, it can be fun to do. There are a host of books of dream themes and meanings. None are to be taken too seriously.

How to Stop Bad Dreams

Getting enough sleep is essential in stopping bad dreams. Many people often try to avoid sleep when struggling with this issue, but it makes the problem worse. If you are exhausted, your brain will be overloaded when it is time to go to bed. This causes you to have more active brain patterns while you sleep, causing dreams to occur more frequently.

I Keep Dreaming About My Ex, Is That Bad?
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Taking a run or doing some light exercise before bed can help drain your batteries enough for a restful sleep. Exercise has also been shown to release endorphins to your brain, making you a happier person overall.

If the dreams you are having are causing you great anxiety, try deep breathing exercises. This can help lower your blood pressure and puts you at ease. There are many different exercises you can try, making it easy to find the one that's going to work for you.

If nothing you are trying seems to work, it may be time to get a professional involved. The guidance of a trained counselor or therapist could be the key to stopping bad dreams for you. The counselors at BetterHelp are trained to help people develop healthy cognitive function (which includes dreams). These counselors have thousands of hours of experience and have chosen to dedicate their lives to helping others. With BetterHelp, you don't need to worry about sitting in traffic or taking time out of your workday to drive to an appointment. You can access BetterHelp from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Rachia is not the type to just tell you what you want to hear. She has helped me face a lot whether I like it or not, and I do feel enlightened, stronger, and sleep better."

"Julia is a very open-minded, understanding and warm-hearted person. She listened with kindness and without judgement. Her advice helped me tremendously through a bad break up and ensuing personal problems. Her advice and understanding has been very helpful in guiding me to a healthier mind frame."

Conclusion

Although dreams about an ex can be confusing and frustrating, they don't have to take over your life. Understanding the reasons why this occurs can offer a lot of comfort to you. If you still need help after trying to solve problems on your own, a therapist can help. With the right tools, you can enjoy truly fulfilling relationships. Take the first step today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it true that if you have a dream about someone, they were thinking about you?

Some believe that if you dream about a person, they were thinking of you.  However, this belief is based more in superstition than fact.  If you are dreaming of someone, chances are you are the one who was thinking of them.   You may have seen or heard something that triggers your subconscious mind to recall a memory of them and then dreamed of them when you slept. You may have been thinking about them in real life, and it led your unconscious mind to dream about that person. You may even be remembering your sex life with this person or a bad habit that they had. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but there is also a chance that it does. A licensed mental health professional can help you figure out the underlying cause.

Some people believe that dreams are symbolic, where they even want to try lucid dreaming, which occurs when someone is dreaming and is fully aware that they are dreaming. If you’re dreaming more about an ex than your partner in your current relationship, you may not be pleased with your current life or sex relationships you are experiencing. A dream analysis may be something you are interested in, if you are concerned by the subject matter in your dreams. You may also want to talk to a counselor about your vivid dreams.

Why do I dream about my ex years later?

It is not uncommon to dream about an ex, even years after the relationship has ended.  If you saw your ex somewhere or someone talked about them, it may have caused your mind to remember things about them or focus on them and then when you fell asleep, you dreamed of them.  If you find yourself dreaming of your ex, this is not always bad thing.  However, if your dreams are recurrent or if the memory of your ex begins to have a negative impact on your current relationship, there may be some unresolved issues that you need to address. You may have been reminded about an ex, and remember feeling rejected or other issues that you have not been able to work out completely yet. If you’re single and you’re having recurring dreams about an ex, you may just want to talk to them again. You may want to reevaluate your past relationship, to determine what went wrong. Think about how you are feeling in your current life and you can decide what you want to do next. If you have friends that you can confide in, ask them about related stories they have of you and your ex, which may be able to help you gain some perspective.

Does dreaming about your ex mean they miss you?

Although your ex may miss you, dreaming about your ex does not mean that they do.  Dreams are the way your subconscious mind connects with emotions, senses, and cognitive experiences during patterns of sleep.  Some common reasons you may dream of your ex include:

  • You have fond memories of your relationship
  • You're fighting negative feelings about your past relationship
  • You’re feeling insecure in your current relationship or your real life
  • You’re fighting in your current relationship, and it makes you think of an ex

Is it true that if you dream about someone it means they miss you?

Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support this.  If you find yourself dreaming about your ex, chances are something happened in your daily life that triggered a memory of them. Memories of your ex are likely in your subconscious mind, even if you broke up a long time ago. This means it is possible to dream of an ex at any time. It is true that dreams are symbolic, but they don’t always mean something. You may have simply wanted to give a gift to them, as you saw something that reminded you of an ex. You may also have related stories about your ex and your current partner, where they remind you of each other.

Why does a person come in your dreams?

There are several opinions regarding why a person appears in your dreams.  If a person represented something significant in your life, you may find that you’re dreaming of them when similar life situations occur.  For example, if you had someone that you confided in when you were afraid or worried, you may find that you dream of them when you experience those emotions.  If you have fond memories of a person, when something happens to trigger that memory, it may cause you to dream of them. You may have unresolved issues with someone that makes you dream of them, or you can even be dreaming of the person in your current relationship because you see them every day. There are so many reasons why you may dream of someone. If you want to keep track of who you’ve been dreaming about, consider writing about your dreams in a dream journal. You can share this journal with a dream analyst if you want to, or just have them to look at yourself at a later date.

Why am I still hurting over my ex?

It is normal to feel hurt after a relationship ends.  Even if your current life seems to be going well or if you have a current relationship that appears healthy, there are times when your memory may be triggered by something that causes you to hurt.  If you experienced abuse in your past relationship, you may even dream about an abusive encounter.  Although it may be normal to think about the past or wonder what things could have been like, if you are still hurting over your ex, especially for a long period, this could affect your current relationship and any future relationships.  If you find that you are constantly thinking of your ex or that you’re dreaming of them often, it may be a good idea to reach out to a counselor or other mental health professional for help processing the pain you are experiencing. They may be able to help you figure out why you’re dreaming of a certain person and if your dreams are affecting your waking life. The term waking life refers to the time when you are awake and not sleeping. You may want to call this real life or waking hours also.

Is my ex thinking about me when I dream about him?

There are some people who believe that when you dream of someone it’s an indication that they are thinking of you.  However, most sources tend to indicate that when you're dreaming of someone it is more an indication that you have significant memories of them that manifest in dreams. While it is possible that when you’re dreaming of someone your subconscious is telling you they are thinking of you, this is just one explanation.

How do I stop dreaming about my ex?

If you’re dreaming of your ex, there may be current issues in your current life that cause you to remember them or situations that involved them.  If you were in a relationship for a long time, you may find that things that happen in your daily life trigger some thought of them that causes you to fall asleep with them on your mind and then dream of them.  It’s important to take the time to try and pinpoint what is happening that leads you to have them on your mind.  You may find it helpful to keep a dream journal so you can document a pattern of what activities or events that occur that may trigger you to dream of them when you fall sleep. If you are having sex dreams about an ex, it may be more obvious about why you’re dreaming of them. Your subconscious mind may be reminding you of sex relationships or the sex life you had with an ex. Remember you can contact a dream analyst for information on dream analysis or talk to a therapist about how to stop these common dreams.


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