Does Dreaming About Your Ex Mean You’re Still in Love?

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About She Said He Said

Eli and Josie, friends since college, realized how lucky they were to have one another—an honest friend of the opposite sex who tells it like it is. They wanted to share that with the world and so was born.


  1. Watch out on those books about dream analysis, especially those available on a commercial bookstore shelf. A lot of them are full of utter hooey.

    (What follows is based on a paper I wrote in college about dream theory that was focused on debunking dream mythology, like what you might find in a “dream dictionary.”)

    Dreams are in many ways random. In the waking world, thinking is often linear – point A to point B to point C. When we are asleep, the brain functions less linearly and more metaphorically, jumping from point A to point J to point R and back to B, etc – the way it works when we create similes and metaphors in speech & writing, by drawing comparisons between things that are essentially different. And those “points” can be anything – a memory, a sensation, a wish, a fear, a person, a flavor, a sound, etc.

    Interpreting dreams in a linear, logical way isn’t really helpful; it’s better to take the context of the dream, especially the emotional experience of your dream character, and look for an overall symbolic meaning, if you really wish to interpret at all. For instance, I often dream of being caught in or pursued by a tornado when I’m experiencing a lot of change in my waking life. These are scary and chaotic dreams, reflecting the fear and lack of control I feel in my situation when awake. It’s like my brain is saying, “Moving out of your apartment and into a new house is kind of like being chased by a tornado” – there’s no logical correlation, but the underlying emotional experience is similar.

    In a nutshell, your ex appearing in your dream means only one thing: that you remember him. That’s it. He is encoded on a nerve somewhere in the folds of your brain, and that nerve can be triggered by other thoughts and experiences, awake or asleep. It does not mean you’re in love with him, or that you love your boyfriend any less, or that you want to leave your current relationship. Just that he still exists in your memory – and rather recent memory, at that, so it’s no surprise he’s easily triggered.

    I can relate to Eli’s girlfriend though – I often wake up very angry with people who crossed me in my dreams! :) Best not to talk to them until I’ve fully woken up.

    • I think this is spot on. I was in a relationship/marriage for 28 years and I’m only 47. that’s still more than half my life. I have dreams about him a lot, but in a non-sexual way: just everyday things. I don’t remember a lot of them in detail, but the ones I do remember I know that a lot of the time I’m impatient or frustrated. I think dreaming is the way the mind reconciles all the perceived past injustices and if you were in a mostly unhappy relationship for so many years, just because you physically leave doesn’t mean your mind does. It is left figuring out what all you learned from the experience and just healing in general. Like when I was fighting w/ friends in high school or being bullied. IN real life I would take the bs, but then I would go home and dream at night of beating the snot out of them. It was my way of working out the frustrations and asserting myself in a way that I couldn’t during my waking hours. My dreams about my ex are not about love. They are about putting the whole 28 years in perspective so that I can leave the emotional, physical, and mental issues I had during that time behind me. It’s going to take a while. 28 years is very long time.

  2. From the little Jung I read, something like that will usually communicate to you using symbols something about yourself. The ex, in other words, has nothing to do with the ex, but with the way the dreamer’s subconscious view of herself during the time she dated the ex. When you dream about some random person from high school, it doesn’t mean anything about that person–he’s there to represent your youth, basically. Maybe what’s important here is what the dreamer and the ex are talking about, and what that may reveal about a possible unresolved issue that was left open three years ago (and probably has nothing to do with the ex).

  3. I was having similar sorts of dreams about an ex at the start of this year. In a lot of them she was in danger, hurt or dead, so I decided that I should probably contact her and see how she was doing. I did. We started hanging out. We started sleeping together. It ended badly, as it always did with us us.

    But it was an important lesson for me (probably for both of us): Even if she was in any sort of trouble, I really had no control over her life or what/whoever was putting her in danger. I only had control over my own life and my own thoughts. I don’t believe in “should’ve” as an option (because it isn’t one), but really I could’ve gotten away with just doing what Josie said above; acknowledging the dreams/thoughts and moving on. Recently I’ve been having thoughts of her and dreams about her again. This time I know better than to seek her out because, really, the feelings/thoughts/dreams I’m dealing with are mine to resolve with myself, not with her.

  4. Luke Davis says:

    Lol. I’m faceblind, I can’t remember a single dream with a person I know in it and when I do have the occasional guest (sadly doctor who was the last one and not miranda kerr) I only ever know they are beside me or behind me, I never see faces. Who knew the benefits to faceblindness :)

    Can’t help you on this one.

  5. Some dreams are so poignant and feel so real, waking up the feelings were so strong still i.e. dreamt my mother died, called her immediately to tell her I love her. She did die a month later. Some dreams make you feel you have to say or do something because the feelings resonate when awake!
    In this case, dreaming of an ex – a person who was once an intimate – then no contact whatsoever, is human nature to wonder about them but not enough interest to check in so to stay uninvolved. Some people are better at it and some remain sentimental.

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