A couple of years ago a reporter from Cosmopolitan magazine sent me a list of dream types she had gathered from other women in her office. I can’t remember if an article ever appeared, but I thought the dreams were interesting as expressions of the concerns many women feel about their romantic relationships. Here is the intro I gave to the reporter, the dream types, and my comments. (Note: I just found a copy of the article. It appeared in the December 2010 issue, p. 112, under the rather lurid title “What Your Freaky Love Dreams Mean.”)
Many of these dreams seem to have a distressing, negative tone, so let me say that in general I look at “bad” dreams and nightmares as valuable opportunities for insight and growth. Such dreams usually revolve around the most emotionally important and challenging issues of our lives. They focus on our difficulties precisely in order to give us a deeper understanding of what’s going on and what we might do about it.
1) You’re back with an ex.
*Is there a different interpretation depending on whether the ex you dreamt about was a nice guy who you had a good relationship with vs. a bad guy who didn’t treat you well?
Dreaming about one’s past romantic partners never ends. He may be gone from your waking life, but, for better or worse, he’ll linger in your dreams forever. These kinds of dreams do NOT automatically mean you want to get back together with him. Rather, they reflect the complex and long-lasting impact any serious relationship makes on your unconscious mind. The details of the dream are important: I would want to know, in what situations does your ex appear? What kind of emotional energy does he bring into the dream scenario? If he’s a “good” ex, perhaps the dream suggests there’s still a way in which his presence is a helpful force in your waking life. If he’s a “bad” ex, maybe it reflects a sense of still being trapped in the relationship, or possibly threatened by something symbolized by his kind of personality.
2) Your partner betrays you in some way (like cheating, lying, or revealing something personal about you to everyone).
This is the price of a committed relationship: a vulnerability to betrayal. No matter how strong a relationship may appear in waking life, both people inevitably suffer some degree of insecurity, both conscious and unconscious, about their partner’s being unfaithful. This insecurity naturally comes out in dreams that vividly portray how badly you would feel if your partner violated your trust and fidelity. It’s possible the dreams are clues to an actual problem in the relationship (again, the details matter), but usually such anxiety dreams are reminders of our exposure to extreme emotional pain whenever we form a romantic bond with someone else.
3) You blow it with your man (whether by having a one-night stand, saying something cruel to him, etc.).
Monogamy doesn’t come easily. We all have within us complex and conflicting feelings about our romantic partners. It’s important to acknowledge and accept those feelings when they arise in dreams, even if we don’t necessarily act on them. That said, if someone were having these dreams frequently, I’d certainly wonder about the quality of their waking relationship.
4) You’re engaged, and there’s something off about your ring—the stone is missing or so small you can’t see it, it’s ugly, etc.
An engagement ring is an ancient emblem of love and commitment, a very public announcement of two people’s plans for a future life together. This makes it an excellent dream symbol for a person’s feelings about the impending marriage. Because the focus in these dreams is usually on the appearance of the ring, I’d want to ask if there’s a concern about the appearance vs. the substance of the relationship.
5) Something weird happens during your wedding (like you can’t see the groom’s face).
A wedding is one of the most momentous rituals of human society, a true rite of passage that forever binds two people’s lives into one. The awesome magnitude of this life change is often reflected in distressing dreams of wedding day disaster. A Buddhist perspective might be helpful here: In that tradition’s view, a dream of wedding catastrophe could be a good dream because it shows your old way of life is dying and a new and better way of life is being born. The weirdness reflects the shifting of your reality from the past to the future. In the case of the groom’s missing face, it might be that his appearance and personality are not the primary focus here; what’s ultimately important is the power of the vows you’re making with him.