Perhaps the only thing that could feel worse than having dreams about your partner cheating on you is having it happen in real life. When a bad dream about cheating hits close to home, it can bring up all the same negative emotions, trust issues, and insecurities that we’d feel if we’d actually experienced the events in our waking life — even if there's no doubt in your conscious mind that your partner is true to you. But what does it mean to dream of your partner cheating?
Just because a lover is unfaithful to you in dreamland doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be suspicious of any indiscretions. In fact, dreams about being cheated on are among the most common types of nightmares: Studies have shown that nearly one in four Americans have had a dream about cheating or being cheated on. While it might feel like a horrible betrayal when the dream is still fresh, it doesn’t indicate that you’re picking up on any subtle signals.
"Dreams are not predictions — they are metaphors and symbols for conflicts that we are struggling to wrestle with, make sense of, and resolve," relationship expert and psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish tells Bustle. "How you feel in the dream is the key to how you are feeling in real life." That said, paying attention to how a cheating dream makes us feel is more important than fixating on the nitty-gritty details — as this could point toward repressed feelings that we’re struggling with in our waking life. It's important to reflect and try to identify the source of those feelings, as they can reveal a lot about our emotional state. And ultimately, you might find that they aren’t actually related to your partner at all.
So what does it mean when you dream about your partner cheating on you? Here are a few common cheating dream meanings — plus how to handle it if happens to you.
You’re Having Trust Issues
While dreaming of an unfaithful partner doesn’t mean they’re untrustworthy in waking life, it could mean you’re struggling with some fears about the relationship or trust issues in general. "Bad dreams are hypothesized to be a form of emotional release, [so] dreaming about your partner cheating is likely related to a deep fear you have," certified sleep science coach Chris Brantner tells Bustle. “Maybe it's an actual fear of cheating or maybe it's some more abstract form of mistrust.”
Trust issues can take on many forms, so even if you’re not consciously worried about cheating in a relationship, it’s helpful to examine any other part of your life where you’re afraid to be vulnerable or honest. "Take a look inward and try to identify where your trust issues could stem from,” Brantner says. “That mistrust may have to do with your partner, [but] it could even be mistrust in yourself."
You’re Processing Other Big Feelings In Your Relationship
As crappy as cheating nightmares might feel in the moment, they can actually help you process feelings when you're upset, stressed, or adjusting to life changes.
"While nightmares can be anxiety-inducing, they can be good for you," Brantner says. "Your brain is able to sort through and process your day's activities [and] it's during this time that insights can be made and problem-solving can be honed for daytime performance.”
That said, cheating in a dream may simply be a symbol for any other struggle or stressor you’re experiencing with your partner — and the dream itself could be a way for your brain to work through the emotional ups, downs, and changes with your relationship. “Some experts believe that dreaming is ... a way for your brain to prepare for difficult encounters later on,” Brantner says. “You can think of dreaming almost as an overnight therapy."
You’re Feeling Betrayed In Other Parts Of Your Life
The betrayal and pain we feel when we have dreams of a partner cheating can be visceral. And while it’s important to pay attention to the feelings these dreams trigger, we should keep in mind that it could point to issues happening outside of the relationship.
“If you dream that your significant other is cheating and in the dream you feel betrayed, hurt, and angry, you need to ask yourself where in your current life you are feeling betrayed, hurt, and angry, too” Walfish says. “You may be surprised that it has nothing to do with your significant other. You may be feeling these emotions with a coworker or employer, or your mother!" Analyze where these feelings are showing up in your waking life, and don’t limit yourself to your romantic partnership. A cheating dream could indicate that there are other situations in your life that have left you feeling betrayed or frustrated.
Your Relationship May Need Better Communication
When you dream about your partner cheating, it might mean that you need to develop stronger communication skills within your relationship and open up about any beneath-the-surface fears. "[Cheating] dreams could be an indication that trust is deteriorating in your relationship," health and wellness consultant Caleb Backe tells Bustle. "You should address these feelings sooner than later, [as] they can put a great deal of strain on your relationship — you might start to stress and worry about things that aren’t true rather than dealing with them openly in a mature and honest way.”
The main reasons why people cheat in real life often boil down to a lack of open communication, so take these dreams as a sign to open up. “Communication is the most important foundation for any relationship,” Backe says. “While dreams might be helpful for working out your own personal feelings, talking to your significant other as often and as honestly as possible is the best way to maintain a healthy relationship."
How To Deal With Dreams About Your Partner Cheating
Dreams about your partner being unfaithful might be unsettling, but it's important to not jump to conclusions or start pointing fingers based on a bad dream alone. "If you're dealing with dreams of your [partner] cheating, resist the urge to be angry with them at all,” Brantner says. “Don't immediately go and make accusations.”
Instead, Brantner suggests looking inward at the feelings of betrayal that came up in your dream, as they probably reflect your own insecurities. It's easier said than done, but asking yourself what might be causing your subconscious brain to feel distrustful or betrayed is imperative. This kind of self-reflection can help you get to the root of the issue — which can ultimately help to heal your relationship and soothe your anxieties instead of worsening them.
Caleb Backe, health and wellness consultant
Dr. Fran Walfish, PsyD, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based family and relationship psychotherapist
Chris Brantner, certified sleep science coach at SleepZoo.com
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