What Does It Mean When You Dream Of Your Ex?

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated March 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you ever woken up in the morning and thought, "Why do I dream about my ex?" For some people, dreaming of an ex can make them feel like they might have made the wrong decision in walking away from the relationship. On the other hand, it could lead some people to obsess about the negative aspects of the former relationship.

Whatever the reason, many people can relate to the interest, confusion, or distress over such dreams because they tend to be common occurrences. Dreams can be complex, and there are endless theories and speculations about what dreams may or may not mean. Some people believe that dreams are a complex way for your brain to filter day-to-day activities and memories. Others believe that dreams may mean something more about your feelings and inner desires. 

Below, we’ll look at some possible meanings of dreams about your ex and discuss ways to process your dreams. 

iStock/andresr
Do you have unanswered questions about past relationships?

Dreaming you were still together

One of the most common ways people might interpret a happy dream about an ex is to think they should still be together. You might be reliving pleasant memories you created with your ex or the feelings that came from your good times together.

While these dreams can be frustrating, confusing, and painful, they could be part of your grieving process. Everyone can grieve differently. It may help to reflect on the reasons you broke up in the first place. You might remind yourself that it was just a dream and that it does not change reality. 

Dealing with trauma from the past relationship

If a dream about your ex made you feel afraid, sad, or angry, you may be remembering the pain from the relationship. You might be processing trauma from an unhealthy relationship so that you can wholeheartedly move on to a new one. Occasional dreams may be normal, but if you find they are happening more often than you feel comfortable with, it may help to talk to a professional about it. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Ex dying in dream

Have you ever had a dream in which your ex has passed away? If so, you’re not alone. This can be a common theme in dreams about ex-partners. You may be realizing that any old feelings for your former partner have “died.” You may find that the pain no longer hurts you and the happy times no longer bring you joy. If these dreams are disturbing or are bothering you, it may help to talk about how you are feeling with someone you trust.

Current relationship bringing up old feelings

If you’re in a new happy relationship, you might still dream about your ex. Your dreams might be more about the feelings you had when you were with your ex though than about your feelings for them as an individual. If you're feeling the same emotions you did then, but with someone new, you may feel worried that you're putting yourself into another bond that could end badly. If the feelings are more joyful, it might mean that you found a person who can give you the same happiness as before.

Getty

Trying to decide whether to continue a new relationship

Your mind may be working out the pros and cons of continuing forward in a new relationship that began after you broke up with your ex. In this case, a dream about your ex may be an attempt to help you resolve the issue of whether to stay in the new relationship or to enjoy single life. It may help to use these dreams as a starting point for consideration and personal thought, not as definitive guidance on making life decisions. You may find it helpful to journal about how you felt in your dreams. You can keep a record of your dreams and note what they were about, who was in them, and as many details as you can remember when you wake up. You can then talk to family, friends, or a professional counselor if you want to process your dreams.

Moved on from past experiences

The meaning of your dream may have nothing at all to do with your ex, aside from them making an appearance. It may simply be that you've left all experiences with your ex in the past and are ready for a fresh start. A dream may be showing that you've healed and moved on. You may have trouble identifying what the future holds for you, but you may be ready to move forward.

This all makes sense, so what do I do about it?

Some people feel connected to their dreams and put stock in their personal meaning. Other people believe that dreams are nothing more than a rinse cycle of the day or random brain activity that occurs during sleep without a deeper meaning. If your dreams negatively affect your sleep or day-to-day activities, it may be important to reach out and talk to someone. You could mention what you’re going through to family, a friend, or perhaps someone from a social group you belong to.

Getty/PeopleImages
Do you have unanswered questions about past relationships?

The significance or lack thereof of in a dream might be hard to determine. If the dream is especially troubling or if it takes you out of your present reality, it may be helpful to speak with a professional counselor. A counselor may be able to help you explore the emotions brought about by your dreams.

If you don’t have time for traditional in-office therapy at this time, you might consider online therapy, which  

research shows to be effective for a variety of mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression. One study published in 2020 found that online therapy was at least as effective as in-person therapy. 

With online therapy, you can connect with a therapist in multiple formats, whether by phone, videoconferencing, live chat, or a combination of these methods. You can also contact your therapist at any time through in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can. This may be useful if you have dreams of your ex in between sessions and want to discuss them with your therapist.

Below are two counselor reviews from people who have tried BetterHelp.

Counselor reviews

“Laura was a really perceptive counselor - and within a matter of the first week, she helped me have some really deep realizations. She was very kind at the times I was struggling with feelings of shame and gently helped me gain some really helpful insights about what I was experiencing and why. I also appreciated the human way she allowed me to explore my emotions and think differently about how I was interpreting them. She is clearly knowledgeable and experienced and knows how to read between the lines. I really appreciated her clear but gentle approach. We did text chat-based counseling, which I was a little apprehensive of at first, but it worked well and gave me the chance to say some things I might have struggled with face to face. I would really recommend Laura to a friend!”

“Jammie is an exceptional active listener. She takes what I say and repeats it back to me so I know that she understands what I am saying. That way she helps me interpret what I am feeling which helps me put my anxieties into perspective.”

Takeaway

Dreaming about an ex is a common phenomenon that many people experience at some point in life. Although dreaming about your ex doesn’t necessarily indicate the breakup was a right or wrong decision, it can bring up emotions that can be confusing. If a dream is upsetting or troubling, you may benefit from talking about it to a licensed therapist. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who has experience helping people process emotions related to previous relationships. Take the first step toward getting support and reach out to BetterHelp today.

Build healthy relationship habits with a professional
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started