There you are, sitting on a beach with your partner watching children hopped up on Mr. Softee and juice harass a seagull, when it hits you: You've seen this exact scenario play out before. You've already watched these two gremlins antagonize this same seabird with the same blue pail, although you can't quite remember when or where, and you feel acutely unsettled by the memory. Or maybe you're in a brand new state, country even, walking into the wedding of a couple you've never met before when you're overcome by a feeling of eery familiarity. That's déjà vu, a term that means "already seen" in French, and describes the sensation of having previously lived a very specific experience you know you've never encountered before. This phenomenon can produce creepy feelings in any context, but when déjà vu occurs with a romantic partner, you may be curious to know exactly what it means for your relationship.
Without fully understanding why or how déjà vu occurs — in an estimated 70 percent of people, at that — science suggests a few possible culprits: Some people may experience déjà vu just before an epileptic seizure, although non-epileptic people also get déjà vu. Others attribute déjà vu to a glitch in the brain's memory system, or off-kilter neural firing that triggers the sense of familiarity even in unfamiliar situations. Still others — Sigmund Freud included — have chalked up déjà vu to the brain indulging an unconscious fantasy.
What Exactly Is Déjà Vu?
Psychic Tracey Brown has other ideas. Déjà vu, she tells Bustle, is metaphysical, "a protective energy. It’s almost like your angels, your saints, and your god are guiding you, and you’re the type of person who’s open and receptive to being guided."
Now, whether or not you subscribe to a faith is another matter, but in secular terms, Brown sees déjà vu as a larger force trying, if not to herd you toward specific ends, than make you pay attention to a particular theme in or element of your life. "No one wants to scare you into the direction that they may want you to go into," she says. "They know we as humans are vulnerable, so they" — which is to say, these larger forces — "just crack the gate, give us dreams, give us impressions, show us visions."
Emily Grote, a Brooklyn-based psychic, has a similar opinion. "There are two strong theories on what déjà vu actually is," she tells Bustle. "Some believe that déjà vu is the recall of fragments of stored memory, thus the familiarity. Others theorize that déjà vu is a glimpse into the multiverse. I'm definitely in the latter camp. I believe that déjà vu is a recall into the 'database' that is the multiverse — where past, present, and the probable future co-exist." Déjà vu, she says, offers "a glimpse into the past database."
What It Means If You Get Déjà Vu With Your Partner
But individual déjà vu experience will likely be unique — so what will it mean for your relationship if you get it with your partner? "How this affects relationships depends on the feeling evoked by the déjà vu," Grote says. "Did the déjà vu come during a fight? Then I think it would be wise to consider what the universe is trying to communicate to you — nudging you to reconsider the relationship. If the déjà vu happens under loving circumstances, I think it's reasonable to assume that it's a sign that you and your partner are going in the right direction and have, perhaps, been here before."
Brown says the same. "Without question, always trust the impressions," she says. And trust the feelings that arise during the particular déjà vu scenario: Were you having a discussion with a partner, trying to hash out their feelings of jealousy, when you get a nauseous feeling you've been here before? Is your partner mentioning for the first time their concerns about a friend or co-worker they've just met, but you feel like this conversation has been had before?
Pay close attention to your instinctual reaction: That, both psychics agree, can give you a better idea about what is going on or will go on in the relationship. Alternatively, if the familiar new situation evokes a sense of comfort, or happiness, take it as a positive and affirming sign, if also perhaps a little spooky.
Even if psychics leave you skeptical, most reasonable people will be able to agree on the aphorism at the bottom of all of this: Trust your gut. If a relationship gives you a bad feeling, explore it rather than ignoring it. In short, paying attention to déjà vu means paying attention to what your own subconscious is telling you.