Posted by: Jenny Davidow | November 23, 2010

Dreaming of My Ex

Dreaming of My Ex
When your marriage has ended painfully, the last thing you want is to go back there over and over again in your dreams.
Is it some cruel trick, after your divorce, to find yourself revisiting scenes from your marriage for ten, twenty, or even thirty years? What purpose could this recurring dream serve?

Many women who still dream of their ex wonder if they’re stuck in the past. Or are they still connected to their ex through frustrated love or anger? Some feel as though their recurring dreams are, unjustly or not, a punishment for the past.

The problem is, most people who dream of their ex are trying to understand the meaning with their rational mind.

Dreams are the theatre of your subconscious mind. When you sleep, your conscious mind lets go of control, the curtain goes up, and the dream theatre players come out onto the stage.

These dream characters play every role you can imagine, and a few more that you’d never expect. They can do all the things and express all the feelings that your “executive function” or conscious mind censors while you’re awake. As a result, your dream theatre gives you stories that surprise and mystify you. That’s because your dreams provide information and insight in ways that your conscious mind never would.

Dreams operate on very different rules than your rational mind. Let me give you an example.

At a recent dream workshop, Sarah (not her real name) told me, “I’ve been dreaming of my ex-husband for twenty years.”

Sarah kept wondering, “Am I stuck in the past? Do I have something more to finish with him? What’s going on?”

I told Sarah, “The trouble is that when someone we know appears in a dream, we tend to take such dreams literally: Your conscious mind thinks you’re dreaming about him.”

But every symbol in your dreams has been chosen by your deeper mind, so it reflects part of your consciousness, part of you. All the symbols, including an ex-husband, represent less-conscious parts of you.
In short:

  • Every dream is about your relationship with you.
  • Even troubling dreams offer valuable information about how you can be more in balance right now, by connecting with a less-conscious part of you.
  • Dreams are always about the present – even when they seem to be about the past.

But why do dreams repeat?

Dreams or nightmares that repeat over a period of weeks, months or years are like a big neon sign that says: “Pay attention! This is important!”

To figure out what the dream is trying to tell you, you first need to get past your conscious mind, which likes to run the show. Like a busy executive, your rational mind has a habit of ignoring or dismissing information that interferes or contradicts its assumptions and expectations.

Your dreaming mind offers the complementary side to your waking intelligence. In dreams and daydreams, you dip into a vast reservoir of nonverbal knowing that is based on body signals and emotions that you weren’t even aware of while awake.

In a dream session later, Sarah and I went deeper to understand and resolve her dream.

In Sarah’s dream, she and her husband are moving in together. They are moving boxes into their new home, and all the while she’s saying to herself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I here, with him? I don’t want to be.”

Since dreams often point out problems we are having in the present by associating them with the past, I asked, “Is there a situation in your present life in which you feel you are doing something that you don’t want to do?”

She answered, “Yes, at work. I hate my job.” Then she added that she often wondered “Why am I here?” when she attended group activities – in waking life. Now she avoided social gatherings whenever she could.

I was beginning to see a connection between Sarah’s present life and her recurring dreams of her ex.

Rather than analyze or interpret the dream for Sarah, I introduced her to Inner Dialogue, a method I developed to let dreamers discover for themselves the messages each symbol offers.

I asked Sarah to role-play and speak as her “ex.” I told her, “Speaking as any symbol that is not ‘you’ in the dream will increase awareness of this less-conscious part.”

Now Sarah shifted into a more receptive state so new information could come through:

Sarah’s ‘ex’ said, “Here we are moving in together, but I can tell by your expression that you don’t want to be here. I feel powerless to change your mind. But I am waiting and hoping.”

Afterwards, Sarah told me that she saw her husband as weak and powerless.

I asked Sarah, “In your present life, are you critical of the part of yourself that wants to connect with others?”

“Oh, yeah,” Sarah replied. “I see being vulnerable as being weak and defenseless.”

Long ago, Sarah had decided to reject this part of her. Maybe it was when her marriage ended, or maybe years before. Sarah’s asking “Why am I here?” suggested that she no longer knew why she’d want to be in a relationship, including having a relationship with this softer part of herself.

The reason Sarah was dreaming of her ex over and over for 20 years was because her subconscious wanted her to reclaim the ‘vulnerable’ part of herself.

The deeper intelligence in her knew that to live fully, she needed to be both strong and soft, safe and open. This is the challenge of all relationships, with others and with oneself.

The first step to resolving this repeating dream was to find some value in the symbol that at first we rejected as ‘bad’ or ‘weak.’ Through Inner Dialogue, we discover that these parts of us aren’t all bad, after all. Even a ‘negative’ symbol like an ex-spouse brings us new awareness of something in us that could bring added dimension and wholeness to our lives.

Dreams ask us to get to know parts of ourselves that have been shut away from conscious awareness. Our rational mind has feared that these rejected parts would take over.  But accepting these parts as having value does not mean the ‘bad’ parts will run us. Rather, turning toward a less-conscious part with interest and acceptance simply means that we acknowledge we have those feelings. As a result, they won’t run us by hiding out in the subconscious.

Once we can accept the characters and symbols in our dreams as parts of us, we take the first step toward giving gentle self-acceptance to ourselves.

Through exploring her dream with Inner Dialogue, Sarah was learning how to acknowledge her vulnerable feelings without censoring, judging and struggling. As she learned to give herself more acceptance and compassion, she would begin to see others, and their vulnerability, with more acceptance and understanding. Very naturally, this shift would ripple out to her waking life. Compassionhas begun with herself and opens her to be genuinely compassionate toward others.

Sarah’s recurring dream had opened the door to a deeper understanding of herself. At first, her conscious, literal interpretation of the dream prevented any movement toward insight. But as she did the Inner Dialogue, she recognized that there was much more to her dream – and herself.

Now Sarah was starting to realize that dreaming of her ‘ex’ meant that she was working out how to be in better relationship with herself. Further, her repeating dreams were asking her to learn how to be in relationship, with herself and others, because she wanted to be.

With a few adaptations to personalize for Sarah, I led her through a short dream meditation.
(This visualization is a feature I created to help resolve a recurring dream. I invite my readers to try it out for themselves.)

I’d like you to imagine your dream again.
Only now, when you see your ex, you can imagine it’s no longer his face – it’s yours.
When you see your ex, now you realize she is a part of you
that you’ve pushed away and kept at arm’s length for a very long time.

This other part of you is offering you something of value,
something that can give you more inner peace and comfort.

You’ve been pushing her away, but she wants to move in together,
she wants to be connected with you, be whole.

This other part of you has been waiting and hoping for a very long time.
Notice if you can let go of your judgments of her…
and let yourself soften a little toward her now.

Maybe you are more interested now in getting to know her better.
You can soften a little at a time, wanting to understand her,
to find value in what she offers…

And you can look into her eyes…
You can see her looking back at you with kindness and affection.
She wants to connect with you, she wants to be close.

When you’re ready, reach out your hand to her.
Feel her hand in yours.

A little at a time, you can discover how being connected with her will help you.
You may find she can help you to be more open and connected to your heart.

You may understand that she has a certain strength, a strength and tenderness you need.
Because being open and vulnerable takes strength, because it’s a choice…
It’s a choice that helps you to feel more alive…

And very gradually, as you get to know this part of you.
And as you feel more connected with her again,
you will notice that you feel more comfortable,
more flexibile and resilient.

And you will enjoy being more in the moment, open to life.

Sarah was very relieved. She no longer regarded this dream to be about her ‘ex.’ In contrast, now it was a pleasure to reflect on the dream as about her relationship with herself, something having to do with her present life. She realized that she had the power to understand and improve her inner relationship.

Sarah told me she would practice the meditation I gave her every day. Her acceptance of the softer and more vulnerable part of her would grow over time. Turning toward this previously disconnected or “divorced” part of herself would cause a profound shift — in both her dreams and her life. In a short time, she no longer needed to be ‘dreaming of her ex.’

Dear Reader:  In my book, Embracing Your Subconscious,  I provide steps to help you dialogue as the parts of you that appear in dreams — so you can explore and gain acceptance of a hidden part of you that may at the moment have your ex’s face in dreams, and/or a part that may still hold the unresolved emotions of a younger self.  Check out my book excerpt on my website. You can also buy the book as an ebook, or other products for understanding dreams, at my webstore.

Learn more about dreams!

Click here to buy Jenny’s ebook and download it now!

“Embracing Your Subconscious –
Bringing All Parts of You into Creative Partnership”

Read a free excerpt of Jenny’s book by clicking the book title above.

Copyright 2015 by Jenny Davidow.

When reprinting, please include author name and live link back to https://nightmarerelief.wordpress.com

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Responses

  1. Thank you so much for this! It is an eye opener for me! Am going to your website now! I hope I can understand myself now!

    • Thank you, Ann. I’m so glad the blog and website have been helpful to you.

  2. Thank you for this insightful article!
    I have been having the exact same problem as Sarah and reading this has taken a weight off my shoulders.
    Keep up the good work!

  3. That was beautiful, I keep dreaming I kept going back to an old apt from 30 years ago, also I fly alot in my dreams since I was a kid.

    • Thank you, Donna.

      Going back to an old home, or a childhood home, is a common dream. I find usually it comes when we are feeling something that relates to that period of time, like trying something for the first time, or living alone again, or a relationship that reminds us of that time. Notice what is happening in the dream, since each detail holds important clues as to how it relates to the present.

      Of course, flying is great, and I’m glad you still have these dreams. Here again, details can let you know something about your present situation — do you feel “light,” or that you’re “taking off”?

      Best wishes,
      Jenny

  4. I am having nightmares of my ex but its of us fighting. I’m always yelling “why did you do this,’ ‘why did you abandon the kids and I’. My husband had an affair for a yr and then left and moved in with her. I didn’t know anything about what was going on behind my back until later on. Unfortunately, I live with the nightmares. They really disturb me and I need them to stop. Any suggestions?

    • Hi, Dixie,

      Your experience of nightmares after a painful betrayal and breakup is not unusual, unfortunately. Our subconscious keeps sending us these dreams as it tries to work out a way to resolve the pain and confusion of the experience. The good news is that you can help your subconscious to move the process along. My newest blog post will give you some ideas where to start.

      When nightmares repeat, especially after a bad breakup, it is a call for help and we need to pay attention. Usually, it is very difficult to resolve these dreams alone, because there are powerful subconscious issues at work that may tie in to childhood or other experiences, as well as the more recent relationship. With the guidance of a hypnotherapist such as myself, you can change nightmares and resolve the deeper reasons why they appear, usually in a fairly short time. Best of all, you can learn how to do this for yourself.

      For more information, see “Individual Sessions” on my Nightmare Relief blog.

      Best wishes,
      Jenny

  5. I have been having dreams that I am still married to my ex-husband. We have been divorced for 5 years and I am recently married to someone else. The dreams differs but regardless of what is happening it is him as my husband and not my current husband.

    • Hi, Latrice,

      Memories of a significant relationship or marriage are deeply woven into the subconscious. It is not unusual to have flash-back dreams. Sometimes, though, the dreams tell us that we are facing similar issues or challenges in the present – with a new partner. Our subconscious recognizes the situation in the present, and it is reminded of the past. In that case, it is sending a message to be mindful, to perhaps communicate differently, so the outcome will be different from before.

      Pay attention to what is happening in each dream of your ex. Are these dreams happy or upsetting flash-backs? Is there a similarity between what is happening with the ex in the dream and the situation with your present partner? For example, you’re moving in together with your ex in the dream, and you are moving into a new house with your present partner. In the past, this move made you anxious, or maybe there was a quarrel.

      The more you pay attention to these connections between past and present, subconscious and conscious, dreaming and awake, the less likely you are to have continuing dreams of your ex.

      Best wishes,
      Jenny

  6. Hello, I’m married with three beautiful children and I keep having this recurring dream about my 1st love in high school. It happens in the present and my family is nowhere to be found. In the dream, I am single. But in the dream she is not, and I have finally gotten the courage to express what I wish I had back then. But she is unreceptive and has moved on. I wake up with tremendous guilt because I love my wife and family. This dream keeps happening,I would love some insight.

    • Hi, Chris,

      It is not unusual to dream of your “first love,” or in fact any of your loves, if you’ve had more than one. Whenever we dream repeatedly of one specific person, either from the past or present, it is our subconscious trying to tell us something important. Dreams are like a very persistent friend, trying to get a helpful message to us.

      In your dream, you said you finally get up the courage to tell your first love how you felt way back in high school. That is a very positive thing. Perhaps there’s some situation in your present life in which you need to get the courage to say something about your feelings or vulnerability?

      You also wrote that in the dreams, your first love isn’t interested in your overture and has “moved on.” So here’s where what I call “dream theater” comes into play. You need to look at this “first love” not as a literal person in your dream, but as a part of you that’s being played on the dream stage by someone appearing to be her.

      Think about: What are the qualities of this person? Especially the qualities you loved or still long for. In dream language, these are the qualities in you that you need to boldly express in the present.

      Also, think about what held you back in the past from expressing these qualities, or your feelings. There is something there needing to come into your awareness, so you can approach present situations more boldly as your true and whole self.

      All the best,
      Jenny

  7. Wow, This article really helped me a lot. I’ve been having recurring dreams about my ex fiance (we were together seven years) It was a really hard ending, we both still loved each other but wanted very different things. Now The dreams have been coming every night, and growing more vivid, but have been changing as my life changes. Originally they were about us when we were together and happy.

    Soon I will be moving to a new apartment. And now the dreams are about us splitting up, one especially vivid one is where we move to this new apartment, and he’s there with me, problems start arriving like leaks in the ceiling, and he leaves. The leaks continue growing bigger until I’m being rained on.

    This has helped me realize that I’ve been neglecting other relationships in my life (friends and family) and that I’ve been afraid to be alone, but I need to reach out. Thank you so much! I hope to have a good night’s sleep tonight.

  8. Hi Jenny,

    Your post was a great read, thank you.

    My dreams have been ongoing for two years which may not seem like a lot as some of the other posts here are close to ten years (wow).

    Anywho, the dreams are of the same nature but alter in small ways. They consist of us reuniting after a long period of no contact (which it has been). I touch her hair, hands, face and break down. She will show empathy and we will usually kiss. The dreams are always very sad especially when coming to the realisation that this is once yet again a dream that isn’t going away. They come in bulk (5 times a week then dissappear for 2 weeks or 3).

    At this point it is probably worth pointing out that my ex (first love) was always very affectionate which I loved a great deal. However I pushed her away for years due to other issues. Flat out rejected her again and again (why we broke up). Is there any deeper meaning to these dreams? Or is this just simply put regret?

    At this rate by the time I hit 80 and have dementia, I’ll be rocking in my chair repeating the same name over and over.

    Any help here is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.

    • Hi, Kent,

      People are often confused when they dream of the past, or it seems like a memory of someone, or a wish fulfillment kind of dream. We tend to take such dreams literally, as in “I’m just remembering my ex,” or “I wish I could see her again.”

      But our dream wisdom has much more to say than the literal meaning our conscious minds wants to assign to such dreams.

      Whenever we dream, our subconscious is wisely choosing what, who and when – in order to send us a message that can help us in our present life. How does that work, you may ask?

      So, you’re dreaming about your first love, from years ago. You’re remembering what made her so special. You’re remembering how you pushed her away and didn’t appreciate her till it was too late.

      In dreams, your deeper wisdom is using the symbol of your lady love, and the memory of what was lovely as well as what went so wrong, to bring a lesson to you that is timely for your present life and relationships. Is there a way that you are learning (or still need to learn) to appreciate the tender and affectionate when it is offered to you? Or even more deeply, is there a way you are learning (or still need to learn) to be more vulnerable and bring some tenderness and affection to yourself and others?

      Or is there a way in which you are still pushing that dear part of yourself (or someone else) away?

      In my book I provide steps to help you work through this inner conflict and more easily become friends with that more vulnerable part of yourself. Check out my book excerpt on my website. You can also buy the book as an ebook, or other products for understanding dreams, at my webstore.

      Lastly, simply daydreaming and imagining a more satisfying conclusion to your repeating dream can really make a difference. This is a form of “lucid dreaming” while awake. Your subconscious understands and remembers the positive images and healthier alternatives you imagine with all your senses – seeing, feeling, hearing an outcome that feels healing. You might, for example, imagine telling your ex how you feel as you remember her now, at this point in your life. Tell her what you appreciated about her, tell her how you’d like to have changed your response to her. Then imagine interacting with her in just the way that you would like, perhaps being more vulnerable and affectionate with her and feeling comfortable at the same time. Try this over a period of days or weeks, and you’ll most likely not need to have recurring dreams about your ex.

      All the best,
      Jenny

  9. Well written! I have been having the same problem lately! I did think it meant that I was missing something in my current relationship though, but maybe it reflects on myself only.

    • Hi, Maud,
      Dreams can inform us on many levels at once. I find it most helpful, as the first step, to first look at the dream in terms of our relationship to ourselves, i.e., is there some way we’re not being accepting or loving to ourselves?

      And also, as a second step, it is often helpful to see how the feelings in the dream may be at play in your present relationship, both in yourself and in the other person.

      The first step gives you a basis for some insight into what *you* are bringing to the situation, and what you might want to work on in yourself, to improve the present relationship.

      • I have dreamt twice now that my ex husband got his current girlfriend pregnant. He’s been with her a year now and we’ve been broken up for going on 3 years. We married at 18, divorced at 22. He was a kid and so was I. I regret irrational decisions I made through our divorce, but I don’t want to be with him. I feel as if I keep dreaming of him out of fear he will go on to be happy and I will go on to have nothing. I don’t believe that but my dreams aren’t helping me out any. The second time I dreamed he got this new girlfriend pregnant, my thoughts were “yeah, see it’s finally happened now just like you were waiting on it to..” It really sucks. I never dream of us being together. In the second dream they were actually getting married and I was following him around watching through the crowd.. I felt pain that he had moved on and was so happy, even though deep down I don’t want to be with him. And after they were married I looked down, and unlike the first dream, where she had just became pregnant, she was about 8 months pregnant. So is my dreams giving my insight on events that will occur in the near future?

  10. For the past months ive been having a recurring dream where it starts off with me and my ex in the dream we are fine happy loving kissy or just being friendly hes sweet and nice and hes acting like the man i fell for the one i love and then all of the sudden he changes and starts acting rude and mean we start to fight and i push him away from me and he eggs me on to fight him in a taunting and teasing tone it hurts and i get angry and leave

    in the most resent dream we are just acting like friends we’re hugging and hanging out sitting next to each other hes being sweet and kind and understanding and loving and then suddenly he turns into someone who acts disgusting and rude and gross and revolting hes not the guy i love anymore we fight and he eggs me on trying to kiss me and i push him away spitting on him and he says “spit on me again and ill punch you in the face ” at the moment of the violent threat i wake up

    dreams like this one keep happening over and over again each one a little different but all the same starting off with things good and him the same and ending bad and him changing these dreams are causing me so much pain and confusion please help me understand what could they possibly mean

  11. I have been happily divorced for 5 years. I have dreams where my ex acts like we are together and I am always pushing him away. I have not been in a relationship since the divorce.. I dislike these dreams almost as much as I dislike my ex. It disturbs me greatly that he is in my dreams.

  12. Wow, this is the first thing I’ve read that makes any sense. I’ve been dreaming about one ex over and over and another ex sprinkled in here and there. In real life I was a terrible gf to them. I used them and broke their hearts. I’m not like that anymore though. In my dreams I am always angry with or just have an over all unpleasant feeling.

    These feelings still linger when I wake up. I feel like I suffer from super realistic dreams. If I could get these things out on paper I would be a millionaire. They have a very pronounced storyline. The most recent was I was in a school setting and I had a class and my ex was in it and I was just so irritated because he wouldn’t get that it was over and I was thinking just leave me alone. The teacher plays a trick on me. I leave the classroom and all of a sudden there is some type of T-Rex looking dinosaur chasing us. I’m trying to find a place to hide and the ex is following me to hide with me. I find a place like a closer but it has pipes hot steam that fill up the closet type room. I say we would burn alive in there and can’t stay. Oh and at the beginning of the dream. My grandpa was there. He passed away 1 year and a couple of days ago.

    But these ex boyfriend dreams have been recurring. I feel so unsettled when I wake up. My other dreams are typically the same very vivid and usually nightmarish.

  13. Thank you soooo much! This helped immensely.

  14. Maybe I can ask you. 10 years ago I was with my ex for 7 years before he abruptly left me with no explanation what so ever. It crushed me deeply. It tore my heart into pieces. Since then I have found a wonderful man why I was able to trust and love with all I am. We have been together coming up on 6 years now.

    My problem is that I dream of or about my ex almost every night. These are almost like nightmares. I’m always searching for him and everyone tries to keep me from finding him. I never did until last night. For 10 years I have been searching — and I found him after 10 years.

    In this dream, I was doing and saying anything for him to come back to me. He didn’t act so much like he wanted to, but he did. Even though in the back of my mind, I knew I had to leave my boyfriend now. I knew it would be a struggle, setting up another life. But I was ready to do it. Then I kissed him. His lips and the way I melt into my boyfriend now, is how it felt with him. I knew this wasn’t right and I made myself wake up.

    • Hi, Jennifer,

      It’s not unusual to “blend” past and present, past boyfriends and current ones, in a dream. Something you may not know is that dreams are always giving you information about how you feel in the present, in present relationships, even when they *seem* to be about the past.

      Because you were dreaming of your ex all the time, there seems to have been unfinished and unresolved feelings about that relationship and his leaving you without explanation, which makes sense. I’m wondering if your dreams have changed at all since you “found” him?

      Perhaps it would help you sort out past and present if you make a list of all the things you loved and didn’t like about both your ex — and what you love and don’t like about your present boyfriend. Notice if there are any similarities. Notice what the important differences are.

      Think about what is important to you in a relationship, and if your needs are getting met. Lastly, imagine having a “dialogue” or conversation with your ex. Then imagine a conversation with your present boyfriend. Write it out on paper, if you can, so you can think about it more. Often this helps to sort out the confused feelings.


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