Dreams About Your Ex-Boyfriend – What Do They Mean?

Relationship Rules
29 Jul 2023
13 min read
9 Common Dreams About Ex-Boyfriend, Explained

You wake up after having dreams about ex-boyfriend. Some of them you remember vividly in all their detail. Some are fuzzy and you can’t really recall much about them; some are funny; some are serious and even scary.

What we all do when we have dreams is try to remember them. We tell our friends and family members if they were rather extreme. And then we spend waking hours trying to figure out what they mean. This might be especially true if we have dreams about ex-boyfriend scenarios.

Why in the world are we dreaming about a past relationship that is clearly over, and we may have even moved on with all the lessons learned and have a new current partner? Here is the answer, and it may surprise you.

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Inside the Subconscious Mind: The Basics

“Humans have been trying to make sense of their bedtime visions since well before recorded history.”

Gary Toub, Ph.D., a senior training analyst at the C.G. Jung Institute of Colorado

For over a century now, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts specialized in oneirology, especially Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, have explored what is now known as the subconscious mind.

The subconscious (or unconscious) mind is that part of your mind that is not in your waking and real-life awareness.

So, what’s in your subconscious in practice? A lot actually. Here is all of the stuff stored:

  • All of your memories from infancy. Obviously, you’ve had many experiences over the years that you have forgotten – fond and not-so-fond memories. Your unconscious mind stores all of them.
  • Thoughts over the years. You can’t possibly remember all the thoughts that crossed your head, but your unconscious mind does.
  • Experiences over the years. They have stimulated all sorts of emotional responses. Yes, your subconscious mind stores these too.

All these events are recorded in your subconscious through all of your senses and have developed patterns of responses. These become habits that you may not even realize you have developed control over your almost automatic responses to similar events in your current life.

Related reading: Thinking About Getting Back with Your Ex? Read This Before You Go!

Adding in the Concept of Projection

Projection is attributing to others those feelings and behaviors that actually belong to you.

Both Freud and Jung layered projection into their concepts of the subconscious mind. In simpler words,  it means “What thou see in others, that thou be yourself.” And because the subconscious controls dreams, projection can also occur during those dreams.

Here are some examples of how projection defines your dreams:

  • You might dream that an ex-partner is trying to win you back when. But that means you want them back in your current life.
  • You could have had an abusive ex – and you see someone else abusing them in your dream
  • You dream about sex where your former lover is coming on to you. But in your current life circumstances, nothing could be further from the truth. Your ex-partner has no desire to have sex with you – you are projecting that your previous partner wants the sex you really want with him.

Yes, your dream world is a complex place. Just how, when, and why it occurs has been and continues to be studied by neuro-scientists. We’ll outline one of the key researches below.

The source of ex dreams: Entering the dream world

When and Why You Dream – a Bit of Neuro-Science

There have been a couple of important research studies on dreams and their purpose with the following conclusions:

  • We dream during the REM(rapid eye movement) phase of sleep. You have more than one of these phases during your sleep, but you dream during these phases, and your body is closest to what it is during your waking hours.
  • Your brain processes emotions during REM sleep. These emotions can be repressed feelings you have pushed to the back of your memory. They can be unresolved feelings about your relationships or events, negative feelings about past trauma or emotional pain you have not dealt with in “real life” of being awake, or other unresolved issues in your current life.
  • Everyone needs REM sleep because we do need to process our emotions. When REM sleep is disrupted over time, it has negative physical and mental consequences.

So, you need REM sleep with its dreams to stay healthy. And during this sleep, you process all sorts of emotions. This brings us to the dream analysis theory that some aspect of you is in every person and everything in your dreams.

Why Dreaming About Your Ex in a New Relationship Is Not a Big Deal

“In a nutshell, your ex appeared in your dream to bring you a message you need to know right now. Our past shapes who we are in the present. The dreams about our exes bring us reminders that, in order for our current or future relationships to be healthy, we must let go of the pain and negativity, but hold onto the lesson.”

Lauri Loewenberg, a certified dream analyst

So, you have a current partner, and you have that wonderful feeling that comes with being in love and being loved. And yet you keep having recurring dreams about your ex-boyfriend – and they raise many questions in your head:

  • Why are you dreaming about your ex when your present partner provides one of the partnerships you have always wanted?
  • Why aren’t you dreaming about this new partner instead?
  • Can it be that your dream suggests you are not really over your ex-boyfriend?

Step back and take a deep breath. Dreaming about your ex really has nothing to do with your desire to re-establish intimate connections with that old flame. It has everything to do with you and some aspect of your emotions regarding this old relationship.

Remember: When you dream about an ex, you are really dreaming about yourself, not them.

In fact, when you dream, no matter what you dream, you are projecting some part of yourself into every person and every object in that dream.

Imagine you have a dream that a monster is chasing you. No matter what you suggest about it, it’s your subconscious telling you that the fear you’re running away from is in your reality.

And when you dream about your ex, whatever he is saying or doing is what you are really wanting to say or do, not him. Keep this in mind as you read through some of the 9 most common dreams about your ex that others report having too.

9 Common Meanings When Dreaming About an Ex

“Moving jobs/homes, making a big life decision, or even starting a new relationship can bring about an ex dream. This is simply a sign of transition and a new start! Our minds are deeply rooted in the past and present and often have deep anxieties over the future. Dreaming of the past, of something that has already happened and is, for the moment, set, can bring us comfort during our transitions. No changes come without some sort of discomfort, even minor, and so we cling to what we know. Letting go of this, of embracing the miasma of the future, is an exercise of trust in the self! Easier to say, harder to do.”

Autumn Fourkiller, the writer

So what are those most common scenarios involving an ex-boyfriend? Read this section to see what is REALLY means ABOUT YOU if you keep dreaming about your ex.

1. You Dream About Your First Love

Your love life may have continued moving forward from that first boyfriend. And yet, there he is in your dream. You are saying all the right things to each other, hugging, kissing, and maybe even having sex. So, does this mean you want to leave your current life and relationship and go hunt down that ex?

No. You are projecting all of those feelings you want and need in a relationship now. The dream may signal that you want these more intimate connections with a current partner. Or maybe, you are in between relationships and longing for one that mirrors that first love.

Generally, seeing your first love is a common dream for women who don’t have a current relationship but really want one. And if you do what your subconscious is telling you to do, you will take action to bring about what you desire.

Related reading: What Are You Looking for in a Relationship?

2. Dreaming That You Are Back in a Bad Relationship You Left

This is another common dream for gals who have been in a toxic relationship. If you were with a cheater or an abuser, he is in your dream doing the same thing to you that he did before.

In this case, dreaming about your ex is not dreaming about what he did to you. You are actually abusing yourself because you got into or stayed in that relationship and let that happen to yourself.

The remedy? You may need to get some professional help to work through your PTSD and maybe your guilt for remaining in a relationship that was so toxic. But the first step is to understand that your dream has nothing to do with getting back with that ex. It’s more about you somehow wanting to get that bad experience again.

Related reading: Toxic Love: Are You Feeling It?

3. You’re Having a Sex Dream With an Abusive Ex

When you see a sex dream with the wrong partner and are liking it, what’s this all about? Surprisingly, the most common dream interpretation of this scenario is that you are totally at peace with having left and gotten over this bad relationship.

Your subconscious is no longer caught up in the bad patterns or the guilt of that whole thing, and you can simply enjoy it with no negative emotions behind it. Especially if you know you will never get into a similar relationship again.

All in all, you no longer feel guilty that you stayed with the now ex-boyfriend as long as you did. It’s really over, and you are at peace with yourself.

Related reading: Karma’s a B**ch, or How to Deal with Karmic Relationships

Dreaming about your ex is a sign you want them back

4. You Dream About Your Ex Wanting You Back

What to think if your recent ex is telling you in your dreams that he is sorry for dumping you and wants you back? Maybe he ghosted you after you were dating for a while; maybe he was a “player” and found someone else he thought was better. Whatever the reason for him moving on, you have had to deal with it, and it has not been easy or pretty.

So, do your dreams about him now mean that maybe he wants to start up again? According to a dream analyst Lauri Louwenberg, no. Again, it’s all about you. Why do you want him back? Look inwards – and find your answer.

“That’s you wanting that. That’s you exploring that. That’s you doing a dress rehearsal with what you hoped was a possibility.”

Lauri Louwenberg

5. You’re Fighting or Reconciling with an Ex-Husband

The meaning of this dream depends on whether there are children involved – generally speaking, that is. If the divorce was contentious and you dream about your former spouse “coming around” and being far more conciliatory, it’s not him doing that. It’s what you are hoping for. And if there are children, it is probably for their sake.

If you have dreams about fighting with your former spouse, they reflect what you are feeling toward him – anger, hatred, etc. In this case, it’s time to analyze how you can get over all of this for your own well-being, not his.

Related reading: Divorced and Ready to Date? Wait a Minute!

6. Your Ex Is Killing You or You Are Killing Them

In both instances, this is a good sign. A death in a dream is about an end to something – all dream analysts will tell you this.

If your ex is killing you, it is really you killing off the relationship – all of the pain, the heartache, and the mixture of emotions that came with that. It’s over and you are ready to move on.

Suppose you are killing your ex. Your ex is really you “dying.” The feeling that there may be something left to recover in the relationship is now gone. You are now free to move on without him. How liberating is that? Very! So, congratulations with true moving on.

Related reading: Moving Forward: Your Guide on How to Stop Loving Someone

7. You Dream Your Ex Is in Danger

Are you trying to save your ex in your dreams or not? Either way, this situation is an important sign for you.

If you are trying to save your ex, then there is something in that relationship that you are trying to save. Something like the special way you showed your love for him or what he did for you. This is something you want to salvage for a future relationship. You want that quality of yours to transfer over to new relationships.

If you aren’t trying to save him, it means that there is nothing left in that relationship that you need or want to salvage. He and all that he once offered is “dead” to you. You’re free from your old connections to him. Which is also important for you to know.

Related reading: Will I Ever Find Love? 20 Things That Will Bring You Back Your Peace of Mind

8. Your Ex Is Breaking Up With You – Again

Reliving all the bad aspects of that love affair and being mistreated all over again is unpleasant. But if you experience that painful breakup in your dream again, just remember that your ex is you in a dream situation. And so, you are doing the breaking up; not him.

And so, such a dream is great because you are finally letting go of the relationship and moving on. This is even better if you are already in a new current relationship. Put all of your effort into this one, leaving the old one in the trash where it belongs.

Related reading: What Is a Break in a Relationship?

9. Any Other Type of Dream About Your Ex

Whatever scenario your subconscious mind offered in your dream, there is no need to wake up feeling rejected or not free from the forced end of that former relationship. Also, it’s not the reason to question your current relationship or start spending time with a person you had feelings long ago.

Remember 3 basic rules when interpreting a dream about an ex:

  • Your dream is a projection of your experience. In your dream, you are him. So don’t take his actions like him entering your dream world. The interpretation of your dreams depends on your current life situation, not his.
  • Whenever you do something seemingly cruel in that dream, you are taking on the traits of this person to get past the relationship finally. It’s a sign of resolution.
  • If you are doing something to save or restore your previous relationship in your dream, there is a sign that you are not ready to move on and turn the tables on your ex. When you wake up, try to analyze your previous relationship more carefully.

Final Thoughts: Where to Find More Information on Dreaming About an Ex

Waking up from a dream about your ex is always confusing, especially if you are very satisfied with your current situation and have fully moved on from a past relationship. What is this person still doing in your mind and in your life? As this article shows, they may mean two things, depending on the exact dream scenario: you are over your ex or you really want to get back together.

Whenever you have unresolved issues, you start projecting them. Your current situation may have nothing to do with an ex – perhaps it’s about not getting the job you wanted. That’s why understanding what your dream means is not always easy. We highly recommend digging deeper and reading some studies by the Jung Institute and other scientific materials. Alternatively, if you want to understand a particular dream about your former partner, you can contact a person online who is a certified dream analyst and ask for an interpretation.

Relationships Author
Geoffrey Williams
After taking a required Intro to Psychology course as an undergrad, I have never looked back. Since my doctoral program, I have specialized in adult relationship therapy. Through my studies and clinicals, I wrote several articles for professional journals and currently in the midst of writing a book.

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