- Dreaming about your ex can be a symptom of feeling lonely or missing your time with them.
- But dreams about your ex can also be a symptom of PTSD if your ex was abusive.
- If you’re in a new relationship, it could indicate that you’re noticing similar patterns.
Most of us have had a dream about an ex-partner at some point, but it’s not always clear what this means.
Dreaming about your ex may be a sign that you’re not over them, but it may also be a symptom of trauma, feeling lonely, or having a conflict with yourself.
Here are six reasons why you might be dreaming about your ex.
1. You’re feeling lonely
“If you feel lonely and dream of your ex, that is totally normal,” says Jennifer Freed, a psychotherapist in private practice.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to get back together with your ex — you may just be thinking back to a time when you weren’t as lonely.
“We always long for connection, and we always go back to the last available memory of connection when we are feeling needy,” Freed says.
2. Your ex was abusive
“People who have gone through any kind of trauma often have post-traumatic nightmares,” says Deirdre Barrett, a dream researcher at Harvard University.
These repetitive nightmares are a common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD dreams often come with extreme fear and physical symptoms like sweating and heart racing.
You may also have additional symptoms of PTSD like:
- Feeling detached from your family and friends
- Reckless behavior
- Thinking negatively about yourself
If you’re having dreams like this, it’s best to seek out a trauma therapist to help you manage your symptoms.
3. You’re not over them
If you keep having the same dreams about good times with your ex, this may be a sign that you’re not over your ex or you don’t have closure from the relationship.
There aren’t many recent studies about ex-partner dreams, but a study from the 1980s found that divorcees who were depressed about the divorce tended to have the same repetitive themes about their ex.
In contrast, people who have moved on from their ex “don’t necessarily stop dreaming about them but rather have a mix of themes,” Barrett says.
This means that you don’t just dream about positive times with your ex, but you also dream about mundane or negative things having to do with them, like conflict, Barrett says.
4. You’re unsatisfied in a new relationship
If you’re in a relationship where you feel dissatisfied, you may dream about your ex for several reasons:
- You want your ex back. “If a break-up is recent, someone may be considering leaving the new partner for the old,” Barrett says.
- You don’t want your ex back, but there are things you miss from your previous relationship, like the way your ex-partner communicated or showed affection.
- You’re noticing negative patterns in your new relationship that are similar to old patterns you had with your ex. For example, both partners are bad listeners or expect you to do all the planning.
Having dreams about your ex may be a sign that you “need to have the courage to address the conflicts and problems with the current lover,” Freed says.
5. It’s actually about you
Dreaming about your ex can be a sign that you have unfinished business with yourself, Freed says.
In fact, the dream version of your ex may actually represent a part of you, which can give you a chance to reflect on your own inner conflicts.
For example, “let’s say your ex was abusive and you keep dreaming of them. What part of you is still mistreating yourself and being unnecessarily cruel?” Freed says.
“You can see each dream as a portal to more self-compassion and wholeness,” Freed says. Writing these dreams down in a journal or bringing them up with a therapist may help you understand them better.
6. You finally are over them
Having positive dreams about your ex — like dreams about fun times —may be a sign that you’ve moved on from any leftover feelings about them.
“You know you have really matured and moved on when you can feel utterly grateful for what that person and relationship taught you,” Freed says.
But even if your feelings for your ex are mostly resolved, you may still go back and forth between more positive and negative dreams.
“The whole idea that we process deaths or breakups in an ‘all or nothing’ way is deceptive. Life is a continuous ‘getting over it’,” Barrett says.
“It’s normal to dream about an ex, even occasionally for the rest of your life,” Barrett says. And this doesn’t mean you still love them or haven’t moved on from the relationship.
Ex dreams may be a sign that you’re feeling lonely, you need to work on a current relationship, or you’re having some inner turmoil.
Dreams about an ex usually aren’t a reason to worry, but “consider therapy if you are having frequent, repetitive, distressing dreams about them long after the break-up,” Barrett says.