FWP: Dreaming about Your Ex
PROBLEM: I love my husband and the life we have built. He is really good to me and does everything to make me happy. But recently, I keep having dreams about my ex (and first) love, more often that I’d like to. This feels like emotional cheating, even though it’s involuntary. What should I do? Are my feelings in trouble?
MM: That depends — what kind of dreams do you have when you’re dreaming about your ex? And have you reached out to said lover, so you have a recent memory of him to update your dreams with?
I think the compass for guilt is a personal one. If you’re feeling guilty about dreaming about an ex years later, it means you’ve done something bad in your own book. The only way to ease that is to be extra nice to your husband on the days you dream about the ex. If you’re lucky, his response might even be motivation enough to stop dreaming altogether.
SB: Dear Guilty Party, guilt is not about culpability; the point of guilt is to move you to action. As much as you love your husband, something is missing that you’re having a dream about your ex. Talk to your husband about spicing up your life with some of the things you are fantasizing about. Maybe it’s time for a little role play or some props! Just remember, big picture: It’s not enough for him to do everything he can to make you happy, you’ve got to do some of that heavy lifting for yourself, and guide him on the rest.
LG: I’m going to assume this dreaming about your ex is Nicholas Sparks-level explicit. Here’s the thing: You’re probably not the only one in your relationship fantasizing about sex with someone else. I’m sure there’s a semi-accurate statistic out there around how frequently men think about sex but I prefer to rely on anecdotal authority, which over the course of my lifetime suggests that: it’s ridiculously frequent and can involve pretty much anyone of the gender to which they’re attracted. (I’ll pause here for the obligatory #notallmen.)
So, unless you feel this Ex-rated fantasy is symptomatic of something lacking in your current relationship, or the dirty, imaginary things your first love does to you is making you dissatisfied in real life — lock the door, light some candles, and feel your… feelings.
KB: Why is everyone assuming these recurring dreams about an ex are sexual? I actually read something totally different into these dreams. It sounds to me like you are longing for some emotion that defined that period of your life. I agree with SB: Try to figure out what those are and see if you can infuse them into your current relationship.
But also… there’s another part of me that says: Enjoy! There’s nothing wrong with fantasizing in your dreams. They’re dreams! Who hasn’t relived the rain scene from The Notebook 872 times in her dreams? Or Ryan Gosling in any movie, really. Have at it. Personally, I’m a fan of the Drive dreams…
AV: Get outta my dreams, get into my… no. Wait, sorry – you don’t want to be seeing your ex in a dream. Right. What is it, specifically, about the ex that you’re thinking about? What are you doing in these dreams? What kind of conversations are you having? Are they sexual? Remember that dreams are our brain’s way of entertaining us when the TV has nothing good on. And our brain also has a way of making us think of things we don’t have – and don’t really need.
My suggestion is if it’s an activity or feeling you’re missing, try to recreate that in your actual relationship. Or take up a hobby – an idle mind and all that. Else, I agree with KB. They’re dreams! Have at it.
Got any first world problems? Write to the Swaddle Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll sort you out. Kind of.