Dreams are strange—there’s no doubt about it. Sometimes they make sense and other times we have absolutely no idea where a topic we’ve dreamt about came from. There’s no reason to feel self-conscious about any dream you’re having, however, especially if it’s about your relationship. In fact, as it turns out, relationship dreams are super common. “We spend a lot of time interacting with, and thinking about, our relationship, our partner, our life together, etc., so it’s only normal that our brain processes these exchanges and interactions,” explains Shelley Sommerfeldt, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in relationships. “Many scientists believe that dreams serve as a time for our brains to reboot and cleanse, which allows us to clear the clutter that may be building in our mind and gives the brain chemistry the chance to stabilize.”
Plenty of research by such notable psychologists as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung support the concept that dreams carry a sort of image of our unconscious world, Dr. Sommerfeldt goes onto explain. “The idea is that the unconscious mind reflected through dreams can show thoughts, feelings, memories and desires that may be hiding deep into our core,” she says. In other words, your relationship dreams can serve as a sort of metaphor for the goings on in your life and even give you insight into your true feelings.
Wondering what your relationship dreams might signify? We asked experts to decode the meaning of 5 common dreams of people in relationships.
Having sex or being intimate with your partner
Having romantic, intimate or even sexual dreams with your partner can leave quite an impression on you when you wake in the a.m., however, rest assured they’re quite common. “One of the biggest reasons for these sort of dreams is that your partner is your current romantic interest, so it’s only natural that your dreams may carry out an element of desire and lust for your partner,” says Dr. Sommerfeldt. “This can also be indicative of more desire that you may have in your actual relationship.” For example, you may be craving even more intimacy with your partner than what is actually taking place in real life.
Being sexual with an ex
Don’t worry if you had a really awkward, but steamy, dream about an ex—it’s totally common, and doesn’t necessarily mean you want to get back with him or her. In fact, most often, these sort of relationship dreams represent fears about adultery or even baggage and leftover emotional content from our own past relationships, explains Dr. Sommerfeldt. “While the sexual fantasy is often not the biggest symbolism in the dream, it’s actually more the overall representation, such as the health of the relationship, spending time together, desires to be closer with your partner, etc.,” she says.
An upcoming event
Certain life events, big or small, that have yet to occur are also commonly found in your dreams, for example, a job promotion, an engagement, a wedding, having children, etc. “These may be ‘wish fulfillment dreams,’ anxiety dreams or something you may have even argued about,” says Ramani Durvasula, licensed clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. “It can be unsettling to wake up from these dreams because the thing hasn’t yet happened (e.g. you desperately want your partner to ask you to marry him or her, and you wake up and it didn't happen).”
Being betrayed by your partner
It can be very common to dream about something terrible happening with your partner. “This may be you or your partner cheating with someone else or it could be a traumatic incident such as fleeing a terrible situation, a bad car accident, etc.,” shares Dr. Sommerfeldt. “Oftentimes, when we dream ‘nightmares’ and bad things happening, they can have a basis of truth without our own unconscious, such as real life fears of your partner having an affair, for example.” The root of these relationship dreams, she explains, is our very own insecurities and fears. Consider the overall theme of your dream, as it may illustrate actual anxiety you’re experiencing in life.
Random, out-of-nowhere dreams
It’s totally possible, and likely common, for you to have relationship dreams that simply make no sense. However, while on the surface, they appear senseless, Dr. Sommerfeldt explains that there tends to be symbolism buried even in the most random of dreams. “It is very common to have just irrelevant or often disturbing dreams that may include your partner simply because you’re with him or her on a day-to-day basis,” she says. “The biggest relevance here is that your partner is someone who walks the path of life alongside you and will be present in the everyday activities and events.”