Dreaming about a previous relationship is a discombobulating experience, no matter your current feelings regarding that person. It can spark all sorts of questions, like, “Are you still not over the relationship?” or “Is there something wrong with your current one?”
The Cut interviewed Lauri Quinn Lowenberg, a dream analyst, who gave several reasons behind these dreams and how they might have little to do with your ex. “Whatever’s going on in the dream is going to reflect not necessarily [what’s going on] between you and your ex, but what’s going on with you,” she said.
Here are five reasons why you might be having these dreams and how these opportunities lend themselves to self-reflection.
Conflict in your life
If you dream that an old ex is breaking up with you, there’s a chance that you’re punishing yourself for something that’s going on in your life, like a personal rejection or a failure at work.
Your need to come to peace with something traumatic
If you dream about a previous toxic relationship or an abusive ex, it could be a symptom of the trauma you experienced. “Women who are in abusive relationships often stay in it way too long and they’re scared, or they don’t know what to do. When they finally get out, they get mad at themselves and they beat themselves up, and the dream reflects that,” Lowenberg explained.
Going through a break-up
Dreaming about a recent ex is a sign that your subconscious is trying to help you cope and manage the problem. This opportunity allows you to reflect on what went wrong, process feelings of guilt or even hope.
Your current relationship has become predictable or you haven’t been with someone in a while
According to Lowenberg, dreaming about an ex you had 20 or 30 years ago doesn’t mean that you’re still in love with them — it’s more of a reflection of your life and what you’d like to have again. “The ex, at this point, is no longer playing themselves in the dream — instead, they kind of embody what first love feels like: the excitement, the passion, the desire, being desired, always wanting to be together, bubbles, that wonderful feeling.” This dream can be interpreted as a sign that you should do something to reignite your current relationship or, if you’re single, that it’s time to put yourself out there.
Something is ending or changing in your life
If you dream about your ex killing you or vice versa, it’s not as creepy as it appears. “Death in a dream is about something ending or changing,” Lowenberg says, explaining that if you’re ex is hurting you it means that the breakup changed something within you. If the case is reversed and you’re killing your ex in your dream, it means that it’s time to let go of any resentment you may be feeling for them, no matter how bad the break up was.