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Why Am I Dreaming About An Ex?

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Written By Alex Petrović

Certified Sleep Consultant


10 June 2024 6 min read

Although we can try to influence the content of a dream, in most cases we can’t control it. That's why we think that dreams are very important and can often affect our mood during the waking hours. But what does it mean when you are dreaming about an ex?

After a very pleasant sleep, we wake up happy and full of positive energy. But this is certainly not the case when we dream of an ex. Even if we don't have overly bad feelings towards him or her, it's still a very unpleasant experience. Especially if the breakup was recent and you are not over it yet.

A vivid dream about your ex will cause strong emotions and you may begin to wonder why you dreamed it in the first place. When you start to question all your decisions, it leads you to a vicious circle and you should avoid it. We will help you by telling you a few reasons why you are dreaming about an ex. Oftentimes it is not a hidden message from our subconscious, but the brain is actually trying to tell us something else.

3 dream theories that are crucial for understanding

Sigmund Freud, the legendary neurologist and psychoanalyst, is someone who devoted a significant part of his career to the analysis of dreams. Although he is most often mentioned in the context of dream analysis, many others have also worked on different dream theories. We have singled out three dream theories that we believe are crucial for understanding the background of recurring dreams about former relationships.

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ideas in lucid dreaming

Psychodynamic theory

Psychodynamic psychology focuses on underlying human behavior, feelings, and emotions, as well as their relationship with early experiences in waking life. Sigmund Freud made a connection between dreams and the unconscious. According to Freud’s theory, dreams can be viewed either as a gateway or as processed experiences that should actually be important information for us. Those can be experiences from that day or some earlier experiences that lead us to the answer why you are dreaming about an ex you don't talk to anymore.


AIM is a hypothesis that was proposed more than 40 years ago by Harvard University psychiatrists John Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley. It is a neurobiological theory of dreams. A difference in the activity of the brainstem during waking and REM sleep was observed. Today, a three-dimensional AIM Model is used to determine the state of the brain, and the data obtained led to the conclusion that dreams are a response to high activity while sleeping.

Neurocognitive theory

Many consider the neurocognitive theory of dreams to be the most realistic. This theory suggests that at the root of every dream there is a memory or waking concerns. That's why every person has unique dreams because they are memories and concerns that the brain then processes in its own way while sleeping. Since the brain processes these memories and connects them, it happens that dreams are completely unrelated to a specific event but rather a mix of all of them.

Concrete explanations for dreaming about an ex

Now that you know more about these three dream theories, it will be easier for you to answer the question why do I keep dreaming about my ex. We will offer you various concrete explanations which in most cases turn out to be correct.

an image of a woman having a headache due to teeth grinding

Unresolved feelings regarding your ex

This is a fairly logical explanation. It is possible that you are thinking about getting back with an ex, and that idea came back to you in your dreams. Even if you're not 100% sure it's a good idea, if you still have certain feelings for that person, you won't be able to get it out of your head. So be honest with yourself or talk to a psychotherapist who can help you get a better grip on your emotions.

Traumas from past

If the relationship was toxic, then it is likely that you have trauma from that period. Traumas tend to stick around and usually won't go away on their own. Dreaming can be a useful tool, but it is usually not enough. In order to overcome traumas from childhood, adolescence, broken relationships or the death of a loved one, the help of a trained professional or certified dream analyst is needed. If you had an abusive ex, then the situation is even more serious. This includes not only physical violence but also mental violence.

an image of a woman in a bed scared of nightmares

Bumping into your ex recently

If you bump into your ex, it will probably awaken certain emotions. After all, you spent time together and some memories are going to linger forever. It does not necessarily mean that you are still in love with that person if you dreamed about him or her after encounter. Research has shown that this is a normal part of memory consolidation and that it resembles dreams about old friends. Also, dreaming about your ex is possible if you see photos on social media and not only if you meet physically.

Similar concerns in a current relationship

Sometimes dreams can be a warning signal. Maybe your brain has noticed a similar pattern of behavior with the new partner as with the last one and that's why it tells you to be careful. Dreams can also be just a false alarm, because you are worried about infidelity, for example. If your partner cheated on you in a past relationship, you will probably dream about it because you are worried, even though there are no obvious signs that your current partner is unfaithful.

an image of a woman thinking

You are not over her/him

Experts say that if you dream about cheating on your boyfriend, it does not automatically mean that you really want to cheat on him. It is a common dream. Everyone has sexual fantasies, but most people don’t want to fulfil them. However, if you often dream that you are cheating on your current boyfriend or girlfriend with your ex, then you may find that person more attractive or you need him or her in your life again.

You are trying to forgive

It's natural to feel angry, betrayed, and sad after a breakup, especially if the cause of the breakup was cheating. Then you need time to forgive so that you can continue with your life and future relationships. Part of forgiveness will take place in your dreams. You will probably wake up one morning feeling much better because dreams will help you with that.

An image of two hands holding a heart on a paper.

Something in the current life is bothering you

Maybe you keep dreaming about my ex, and that actually has nothing to do with the ex. Projection is one of the most well-known defense mechanisms in psychology. When something in real life is bothering you, you will have the need to displace it. In that case, your ex-partner is only an object on which you shift your attention, negative feelings and blame.

Does dreaming about an ex have a concrete meaning?

When you dream about that person, you will probably wake up asking yourself the question of should I get back with my ex. Whether that dream has a concrete meaning or not, it's hard to say. Our answer to that question cannot be yes or no, because things are almost never black and white.

An image of A woman dreaming in the bed.

Psychologists often notice in their patients that they dream of their exes and that has nothing to do with the current situation. It is also not a rare case that you actually want to reconcile with your ex on a subconscious level, especially after an abrupt breakup. People tend to break up without a clear reason or use something irrelevant as the main reason for breaking up, and then subconsciously regret it even though it is hard to admit it to yourself. That's when dreams come into play. Dream journal may help you with your mental health and new relationship.

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About the author

Alex Petrović
Sleep Consultant
A CPD certified Sleep Consultant with more than 2000 hours of research into all the different ways we can get a great night's sleep. As a former insomniac, I know how difficult life can be without a nightly recovery and I love that I get to share everything I've learned with you all. So hopefully we can all sleep soundly!
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