Dreaming About An Ex? An Expert Explains 10 Possible Reasons

Ever wake up wondering, "What was that about?" You're not alone.

woman laying on a bed with her arm over her face holding a pillow getty images

Many believe that dreams are manifestations of the subconscious mind — but that train of thought can be pretty disturbing when you start having dreams about people you'd rather forget.

Waking up from a dream about your ex, for example, can be extra confusing.

Why do I keep dreaming about my ex?

I know I have wondered this same thing. The specific reasons people dream about their exes vary, but in general, thoughts of our past most often to relate to unresolved feelings or fears that are currently affecting us in the present.


And while I’m sure that some people may not give dreams about an ex a second thought, you can gain a great deal of insight into your unconscious thinking by understanding some of the most common reasons why people have dreams about their exes.

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Here are 10 possible interpretations of the meaning your unconscious mind might be trying to reveal when your ex starts to show up in your dreams.

1. You may still be angry about something.

Dreams about your ex may be an expression of unresolved feelings of anger toward ex-love.

It is quite possible your conscious mind has repressed that anger in an attempt to protect you from the pain, whereas your unconscious mind is telling you there are feelings of anger you need to work through so they won’t carry over into your future relationships.

2. You may be facing old issues in a new relationship.

It could be that you are experiencing some kind of emotional breakdown or lack of communication in a current romantic relationship, and your unconscious mind may be attempting to show you that problems that existed in a past relationship are occurring again in this one.


By recalling the negative image of your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, your subconscious mind is trying to alert you so that you can resolve the problem before it's too late.

3. You may be worried your current relationship is in jeopardy.

Past experiences should serve a purpose in your current life and present situations.

Your unconscious mind may be trying to tell you there is a problem in your current relationship that isn't being addressed because your conscious mind is trying to suppress or ignore it.

4. Your subconscious may be reminding you of what you don't want.

When your ex appears in recurring dreams, your unconscious mind may be trying to point out that things in that relationship didn't work out for a reason, and that you may want to take a closer look at what you have going on now.


In your waking hours, you may be unconsciously displaying a pattern of behaviors or acting in ways that were detrimental in your past relationships, and your unconscious mind is trying to tell you to stop.

5. Your subconscious may be seeking closure.

There are times when relationships end in such ways that we aren't able to get closure.

Your unconscious mind may be attempting to do this for you so that you can finally move forward, opening doors for you to welcome a healthy, more stable relationship in the future.

6. You may have an unconscious desire to escape your current situation.

All of us have experienced a time in our lives when we wanted to ignore something about someone or stay in a relationship because it felt safer and more comfortable to do so, even though we weren’t necessarily happy.


Your unconscious mind may be allowing you to see what you want and/or don't want, along with what you need to do or change within your current relationship or situation.

7. You may be looking for more out of your current relationship.

No matter how many relationships you've been in or how many times you've fallen in love, it's really hard to replicate the feeling of first love.

If you're dreaming about an ex that also happened to be your first love, it might be your unconscious mind craving that passionate butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling.

8. You may be lonely.

Whether you're fresh off of a breakup or you've been single for quite some time now, you may be experiencing some touch starvation. In this instance, dreaming about your ex might be your unconscious mind's way of signaling to you that you're in need of some affection.


9. You may just miss your ex.

Probably not what you want to hear, but don't go texting your ex just yet! Dreaming about an ex might mean that you're missing something particular about them. Maybe you miss how your ex made you coffee every morning, or left you little love notes around the house.

While you may not miss your relationship with your ex, you fell in love with them for a reason, and your unconscious mind might be trying to remind you of the things you value in a relationship.

10. You may finally be able to forgive your ex.

This is especially true if things are amicable (or better yet, intimate!) between you and your ex in your dream.

It's your unconscious mind's way of telling you that you've made peace with and can move on from your ex.


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Why We Dream

There is a reason humans dream, and it's important to pay attention and try to figure out what your dreams are trying to tell you.

Dream interpretation offers a fascinating way of explaining those fears and uncomfortable thoughts our unconscious (or subconscious) mind makes us aware of while sleep, even as our conscious mind prevents us from otherwise accessing them when we are awake.

Dreams are sometimes pleasant and sometimes disturbing, sometimes vague and sometimes specific. And among the most puzzling of dreams are those in which you find yourself dreaming about an ex, whether it was a boyfriend, girlfriend, lover, husband, or wife.


Our unconscious mind stores information about our character, feelings, and emotions, and serves as a way to protect us from emotional overload.

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, two of the most famous figures in modern psychology, each held their own beliefs as to why we dream and what purpose it serves.

In his psychoanalytic theory of dream interpretation, Freud believed understanding the meaning of dreams was crucial to understanding what's going on in a person’s unconscious mind.

He viewed dreams as a sort of wish fulfillment, as people could attain experiences in dreams they may never be able to make happen in real life.

Jung felt that Freud’s belief in the purpose of dreams was too simplistic.


Instead, he believed that through our dreams, we achieve personal growth, through which we better position ourselves to serve our life’s purpose. He also contended that dreams are symbolic and one of our conscious mind's ways of connecting with our unconscious in order to find ways to approach things affecting us when we are awake.

Additionally, he believed there was another layer of consciousness, known as the collective unconscious, which plays a role in our dreams about certain people.

Don't ignore your dreams.


Dreams with romantic themes, such as dreams of an ex-lover, are usually attempts to answer your questions about all of the relationships in your life, as well as about the meaning and/or nature of those relationships. In order to answer these questions you have about relationships, you begin having dreams meant to reveal different aspects of past loves and present relationships.

It is human nature to long for love, and therefore this theme is universal, but each dream's significance is as unique as is each individual.

Your dreams will not guide you in a direction that will hurt you. Rather, they will help steer you in the direction in which you will be most happy and healthy.

The best way to stop dreaming about your ex is to focus on what your dreams are trying to tell you and deal with those issues. Start keeping a dream journal to document your dreams as well as what happened throughout each day to help identify triggers.


Whether your dreams represent a chance for personal growth or an opportunity to change your current situation, they always serve a purpose. Pay attention to the signs, and do not ignore them.

RELATED: What Dreams About Cheating On Someone Reveal About You & Your Relationship

Brittney Lindstrom is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.