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

Josie and Eli weigh in on whether or not a dream about an ex has to mean something.

Originally appeared at She Said He Said


Dear Sexes: I’ve been dating the same guy for almost 3 years now. I love him to death. He is my best friend and lover. But I have an ex who I only dated for a year, right before him. We are not friends, nor do we talk. Unfortunately, I keep having dreams about him. About a few times a week I’ve dreamed about him, for the past 3 years. They are not sexual or romantic; he is just there and interacting in them. It makes me feel weird in the morning when I wake up. Should I say something, or what should I do?

She Said: This could easily be about unresolved feelings regarding the ex… It’s always sort of odd to have someone be your boyfriend (and probably closest friend) for a year of your life and then just to have them out of your life. If you take the romance and sex angle out, we don’t really do that with people in our lives who are that close to us.Of course, sometimes those types of separations are necessary at the end of a relationship and it’s normal to miss that person—even if the missing is just for that person being in your life as a friend.

There’s another element at play, too, possibly.Sometimes our funny little human brains desire a little discord, so they inject some trouble where they can. The dream may be totally innocent, but we take the feeling and the resulting thoughts a little too seriously and start to cause drama where it may not be necessary.

A friend once said something smart to me about unwanted thoughts… If you can watch them come into your brain, observe the thought and acknowledge it (i.e. “hey, there’s a thought about Ben again”) without judgement or panic or any sort of kooky mojo, you can probably then just watch the thought pass by again. Like a car that passes in front of your window. It’s there, it’s passing, it’s gone. You don’t need to chase it.

Once you remove the “Uh-oh, what does this mean?!” element, I bet the dreams will either go away, or become so much not-a-big-deal, that you’ll realize it’s probably unnecessary to tell your boyfriend about them.If you really do feel bothered, check in with your friendly local therapist before saying something to your boyfriend. Better to process with a pro before bringing the problem to your boyfriend.

He Said: Oh, the trouble we get into in our dreams!  Occasionally, my girlfriend will wake up in a particularly distant and grumpy mood.  When I press her for the reason, she tells me that she’s annoyed, because I cheated on her… in her dream!

Thankfully (especially in these cases) dreams are not reality.  So, your ex keeps hanging out with you in your dreams. No big deal.  If you tell your current boyfriend, and make a whole thing of it, you run the risk of alarming your man (unnecessarily). Do you have some unresolved feelings about your ex? Maybe you do. But that doesn’t mean they’re interrupting your current relationship, or that your unresolved feelings are significant enough to discuss with the ex you don’t talk to.

If you keep having these dreams (3 years is a while), it’s time to head to the bookstore, and study up on dream analysis. Happy reading!

P.S. – I too had a time where I was dreaming about an ex (non sexually) for an extended period, while in a happy relationship with my girlfriend.  Long story short, I hung out with the ex (in real life), and stopped having dreams about her shortly after. Sometimes hanging out with the ex is the perfect reminder why your exes in the first place.

Photo of couple in bed courtesy of Shutterstock


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. I’m only young I’m fifteen but I keep having weird dreams about either being pregnant or being with this boy I was seeing but still currently like, he appears in a lot of my dreams but the dream I had last night was quite unusual, I had a wand and I could go back in time to any part of my life and I choose to go back to when j was seeing boy and I could feel him touching me and his name was changed, I don’t know whether it’s because I’m now talking to him that he appears on my mind often but all these dreams are so detailed and I remember every little thing, do you know what it could mean? Thanks

  2. 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.

  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. 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).

  5. 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.

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