Ever wake up from a dream that felt so real it takes a second to recover and come back to reality? Never is this more true than when you dream about your partner cheating. These dreams are often so vivid they make you angry, even though your partner didn’t actually cheat. It’s just tough to shake the mental image of them hooking up with somebody behind your back.
So what does it mean to dream of your partner cheating, and why does your brain do you dirty like that? As dream analyst Lauri Quinn Loewenberg tells Bustle, being cheated on is one of the five most common dreams her clients report. And, while potentially disturbing and upsetting in the moment, they’re often meant to reveal underlying issues in your relationship that might go unnoticed during the daytime.
That’s why it’s helpful to “analyze” them for hidden messages. "Your dreams will always serve as a guide to every part of your life, letting you know what is wrong and what is right, what direction to take, and what direction to avoid," Loewenberg says. She suggests looking at your dreams as a “second brain” — one that is more honest than your waking brain.
It’s possible a dream about your partner cheating is trying to reveal one of the issues listed below. Use it as a jumping off point to talk with your partner, figure out the root cause, and come up with ways to help you feel better.
1. You're Afraid They'll Cheat
According to Loewenberg, this is the most likely explanation. If you have frequent cheating dreams, it may be because you feel insecure about your relationship or fear that your partner will find someone “better.”
Take a second and think about whether or not this is something you worry about. Do you have a running dialogue in your head that your relationship might not work out, or that your partner might not be happy? If so, it might explain why your worries manifest as cheating dreams at night.
It isn't easy to admit insecurities, much less talk about cheating. But if you can get it off your chest and let your partner know how you've been feeling, it could result in more trust and support — and fewer cheating dreams.
2. You've Been Cheated On Before
If your partner has cheated before, a cheating dream may indicate that you have yet to rebuild trust. And if someone else has cheated on you, you may be afraid your partner will do the same.
“It is normal to have dreams based in fear and anxiety from negative past experiences that we don’t want to reoccur,” Katie Ziskind, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. “If you were cheated on previously in your last relationship, you might be bringing this fear through your dreams into your current one even if there is true relationship security.”
While one cheating dream isn’t necessarily a sign of a problem, if you keep having them it's worth thinking about the impact cheating has had on your life, possibly by going to therapy, Ziskind says. From there, you and your partner can come up with ways to establish a greater sense of security in your relationship.
3. There's A "Third Wheel" In The Relationship
Even if your partner doesn't have another partner or romantic interest, you may feel that someone or something is getting between you. It could be a friend of theirs, their job, a new dog — anything that makes you feel "cheated" out of time and attention, Loewenberg says.
In this case, the dream serves as a message from your subconscious that you’ve been feeling a bit lonely or rejected, or that your relationship is currently unbalanced.
Again, the best course of action will be to talk to your partner about your loneliness and come up with ways to prioritize each other again. Purposefully scheduling dates and extra time together might be exactly what you need to feel more loved.
4. You Feel Betrayed
According to Loewenberg, another issue that could manifest as a cheating dream are betrayals of other kinds, so take a second to think about any recent arguments or misunderstandings you might’ve had.
In this case, the message from your dream may be that you feel “cheated” out of understanding, out of good communication, or out of respect. Once you talk about it and officially see eye-to-eye, you might notice that this type of dream goes away.
5. You Worry About Being Abandoned
Cheating dreams may also point to an underlying fear of abandonment, psychotherapist Alex Ribbentrop, LCSW-QS, CFTP, CCTP-II, tells Bustle. “Dreams around cheating may in fact point to conscious or unconscious attention being paid to this idea or fear,” he says.
You might worry that if your partner cheats it’ll spell the end for your relationship, and thus it weighs heavy on your mind. “The dream content is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of exploring further meaning,” he says, “both real and symbolic for each individual.”
Therapy may be a big help as you figure out why you feel this well. And, again, talking to your partner. “Be honest, and if you feel as though you can't be honest then it may be time to look at that as a primary issue worth considering further in the relationship,” Ribbentrop says.
6. You Don’t Trust Each Other
“Dreams are metaphors, Michael Ceely, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. “And a dream about your partner cheating represents betraying trust.” So think about the areas of your relationship where you don’t fully trust each other.
Do you feel uneasy regarding shared finances, family, or plans for the future? If it feels as if you don’t have each other’s backs, it might help to be more open and honest with one another as a way of building up this area of your relationship.
7. You Actually Suspect They're Cheating
The good news is cheating dreams are rarely a sign of actual cheating. They can happen to anyone, even those in the most secure relationships. But if you keep having them — or if none of these other reasons seem to fit — consider the possibility that your partner really is having an emotional or physical affair.
It’s easy to ignore signs of cheating, Loewenberg says — like the fact they hide their phone, go out more often, seem closed off emotionally, etc. — because you don't want to face it. But since your dreaming self is more honest, and it’s tougher to suppress emotions while asleep, that’s why unpleasant dreams might bubble to the surface.
If you keep having this type of dream, let it serve as a conversation-starter to discuss issues in your relationship, or whatever else might be on your mind. Once you and your partner have an honest conversation, you might be able to return to your regularly scheduled dreaming.
Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, dream analyst
Katie Ziskind, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist
Alex Ribbentrop, LCSW-QS, CFTP, CCTP-II, psychotherapist
Michael Ceely, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist
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