Why Am I Dreaming About My Ex? Exploring How The Subconscious Mind Affects You

Updated March 7, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Humans have been fascinated with the meaning of dreams for centuries and have been scientifically studying them since Sigmund Freud published his research into the dreaming and unconscious mind in 1915. From showing up to school with no pants to dreaming about your ex, read on to explore the meaning of dreams and how your unconscious mind can affect you. 

What Is The Subconscious Mind?

According to recent research, your conscious mind—which thinks, perceives, and learns—is only a small portion of the total activity that takes place in your brain. The majority of your neural activity is nonconscious, where multitasking is the standard, and thought processes are more efficient. 

“The unconscious mind is still viewed by many psychological scientists as the shadow of a “real” conscious mind, though there now exists substantial evidence that the unconscious is not identifiably less flexible, complex, controlling, deliberative, or action-oriented than is its counterpart.” — The Unconscious Mind

Examine Why You Are Dreaming About Your Ex?

Why Are You Dreaming About Your Ex?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, there’s a great deal we don’t understand about how and why people dream. Generally, dreams are believed to function as a way to consolidate and analyze memories and predict how various situations and challenges you face may go during your waking hours. 

Dreaming about an ex can leave you unsettled and anxious, particularly if the relationship had significant issues or didn’t end well. Many people dream about their past loves for various reasons, and research shows that approximately 35% of people in a relationship have dreams featuring their current or former partner, with 17% of single people dreaming about exes. 

What Your Dreams May Be Telling You

While mental health experts haven’t determined a concrete method to interpret dreams, multiple theories have been proposed to offer a guideline to help people decipher meaning from their dreams. Your main takeaway should include the knowledge that no one meaning or interpretation method allows you to understand your dreams with certainty. 

  • Psychodynamic Theory

Freud, considered by many to be the father of psychoanalysis, theorized that dreams served as a window to the unconscious mind. He believed dreams directly related to daytime experiences and could offer meaningful information when analyzed. 

  • Activation-Input Modulation (AIM)

The AIM Model proposes that dreams are the brain’s response to higher brain function, and the brain can provide a virtual reality model to “rehearse” real-world scenarios. 

  • Neurocognitive Theory

According to neurocognitive theory, dreams arise from stored memories. Unique dreams occur as you process memories and experiences, leading settings and people from your waking life to appear in dreams. However, dreams are not necessarily tied to specific incidents. 

Exploring What Dreams About Your Ex Represent

While your dreams are highly individualized, only you can decide their true meaning. However, some common themes in dreams about past loves may help you interpret what yours could represent. 

You Miss Your Ex And Want To Get Back Together

One of the most obvious reasons you may be dreaming about your ex is that you could be holding onto the past due to lingering feelings. If you’re still thinking about them during your waking hours, that fixation may follow you into your dreams. 

You Want Closure About The Relationship

If your former relationship didn’t end on good terms and you don’t feel like you have closure, those unresolved feelings may influence your dreams. Closure typically involves understanding what happened to end the relationship, a sense of peace about how things ended, and accepting that it is over. 

“By knowing the reasons why the relationship isn't working, the initiator of the break-up has already sorted out his or her story. However, the person being broken up with is thrust from being in safe psychological territory into an abyss, particularly if the relationship was seemingly safe, and serious.”— Why We Need Closure From Broken Relationships

Remembering Past Trauma

If you experienced something recently that reminds you of past traumas, your dreams might reflect your unsettled emotional state, particularly if your former relationship was a source of similar traumas. For example, if a previous partner cheated on you and you now worry that your current partner is unfaithful, you may dream about what you went through with your ex. 

You Recently Saw Your Ex

Sometimes, the reason you may be dreaming of your ex can be as simple as you having seen them during your waking hours, either in person or on social media. Whether you have positive or negative feelings about your ex, seeing them can bring up those memories and inspire dreams. 

Your Current Relationship Is Facing Similar Concerns

You may face similar issues to a past relationship with your current partner, which can often bring up dreams about former loves. Your dreaming mind may pick up on patterns you’re unaware of, and seeing your ex in your dreams may represent concerns over your current partner’s behavior. 

Your Ex Reached Out To You

Sometimes, an ex may reach out to you in person, by call, text, or social media, which may bring up thoughts, memories, and lingering emotions related to your former partner. Depending on how your relationship ended, dreams of your ex may be pleasant or disturbing. 

You Aren’t Emotionally Satisfied

If you aren’t feeling emotionally satisfied in your current relationship, you may dream of an ex in your sleep. Dreaming of a former partner may indicate that you’re feeling the way you did with your ex or have similar feelings to what you experienced at the end of your previous relationship. 

You May Be Projecting Your Emotions Onto Someone Else

Your ex may represent certain negative emotions in your unconscious mind. If you’ve had a negative encounter with someone else recently, the feelings you have in reaction could inspire dreams of your former partner. Dreaming about your ex may be your unconscious mind’s way of processing emotions.

You’re Moving On

As you progress through the healing process, you may find that you dream about your ex and the emotional ups and downs of your former relationship. When you’re ready to move on without fear or worry about future relationships, your unconscious mind may imagine your ex. If you aren’t in a new relationship, dreaming about your ex and feeling peace as a reaction could mean you are ready to form a connection with someone else. 

You Are Feeling Or Lacking Emotional Safety

You may dream of your ex when you’re feeling emotionally safe or lacking emotional safety in your current relationship. This could be because feeling safe reminds you of how differently or similarly you felt at the end of your previous relationship.

You Are Happy With Your Current Relationship

If you’re feeling happy in your current relationship, you may dream about a former partner due to the contrast in how your new partner makes you feel. Feeling happy, safe, and loved in a relationship may inspire dreams of your ex to illustrate the change.

You Seek A Specific Emotional Connection

Perhaps you have a specific type of emotional connection with your ex. Reminiscing about how you felt with your former partner can lead to dreams about them. Your unconscious mind may give you dreams about an ex because those memories occurred during a period in your life when you felt the connection you’re seeking. 

You Feel Your Relationship Is Lacking Something

When you feel your current relationship lacks something, it may bring up feelings of loneliness or disconnection, often common during breakups. Dreaming about your ex could mean you think your current relationship isn’t where you’d like it to be or something is missing emotionally. 

Examine Why You Are Dreaming About Your Ex?

How Therapy Can Help

Working with a licensed therapist through an online therapy platform like BetterHelp can offer professional support and guidance as you work to identify and understand your emotions and your reactions to them. Teletherapy is typically less expensive and involves shorter wait times. With flexible appointment formats through phone, video calls, and online chat, working therapy into your routine is simple and convenient. 

Researchers at the American Psychological Association report that online therapy is a viable alternative to treatment in the typical face-to-face setting. Many patients said they preferred the convenience of attending therapy at home and said it made it easier to make it to more sessions—which increases the effectiveness and duration of therapeutic outcomes.

Counselor Reviews

"Kelly has shown me how to be accountable for my thoughts and how to navigate them in a healthy manner. Though the knowledge was somewhat there she has a way of helping me understand what or why I'm going through what I am. I appreciate all the time we've spent together so far and look forward to learning how and being a healthier version of myself through our sessions."

"I tried a few counselors and almost gave up until I found Colleen. I love her! She's easy to talk to, really gets me and best of all she makes me feel like I'm talking to a friend. She's given me some great tips and I'm sleeping better already most nights."


You may dream about your ex for many reasons, and you certainly aren’t the only one to do so. The information in this article may offer insight into why you could dream about your ex and how therapy can help you understand your emotions.

For additional help & support with your concerns

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