10 reasons you’re dreaming about an ex years later (complete guide)

Dreaming about an ex from years ago can feel really weird, or even quite distressing. But it’s also perfectly normal.

If you split up years ago, dreaming about an ex you don’t talk to anymore probably seems particularly puzzling.

Here’s what dreaming about an ex years later really means.

Is it normal to dream about your ex years later?

Far from being strange, dreaming about an ex is incredibly common. How common?

Well, that depends. One study discovered that around 1 in 4 men still regularly dream about their ex-girlfriends.

Research also shows that how often you dream about an ex could depend on your relationship status at the time of the dream.

A study found that 35% of people in a relationship dreamt about their current partner or an ex. In contrast, a little over 17% of single people dreamed about former partners.

Regardless of the exact figures, what is clear is that dreaming about an ex is super common.

But that still begs the question, why do I keep dreaming about my ex?

Why am I dreaming about an ex from years ago? 10 reasons

1) Because of what they symbolize about love

For me, the most common dream about an ex I have is my very first proper boyfriend from when I was 16 years old to 18 years old.

It seems really strange because it was so long ago and I’ve had so many more significant relationships since.

But it actually makes sense when you understand that dreams are largely representations rather than having literal meaning.

You may find a certain ex popping up in your dreams because of what they represent to you.

So in this case, dreaming about your first love makes this ex symbolic. To your mind, he could be synonymous with innocent love, passion, excitement, feeling loved and desired, etc.

It’s not necessarily this ex specifically you are dreaming about, you are really dreaming about what he means to you. Certain exes can represent the very idea of love to you.

So to get to the bottom of it, ask yourself what kind of memories and associations this ex creates in your mind.

2) They hurt you

Of course, it’s not only positive associations we have of an ex that cause us to dream of them.

If you carry around past trauma about this relationship, even if years have passed, they may still frequently appear in your dream.

Perhaps it was a totally toxic relationship that caused you a lot of heartaches. Maybe it involved a crushing betrayal, such as infidelity.

The significant events in our lives and the people who are featured in them can stick around many years later.

Stressful situations and trauma that occur during waking are incredibly emotionally important experiences. Research has shown that as a consequence they are well-represented in dreams.

You may have let go of this ex in particular, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t still left with residual feelings of anger, pain, sadness, frustration, resentment, etc.

The emotions you carry with you keep this ex alive in your head, even though you broke up years ago.

3) It’s not your ex at all, it’s about you

Maybe you’ve been thinking to yourself ‘Why do I keep dreaming about my ex even though I’m over him?’

The funny thing about dreams about other people is that they often represent parts of ourselves.

So although we are left scratching our heads, trying to figure out what a dream tells us about how we feel about this person, we could be coming at it all wrong.

Your dream about an ex you haven’t even thought about in years could have absolutely zilch to do with them, and everything to do with you.

Instead, the ex is a manifestation of something else happening in your own life.

Later on in this article, I’ll dig a little deeper into how you can try to interpret your dream about an ex to glean more clues.

But researchers suggest that the key to figuring out what any dream means is focusing on the emotional state or feelings in the dreams.

You see, dreaming may be a more accurate representation of your underlying emotions.

So if you are constantly having dreams about an ex, can you think back to how that person made you feel?

Perhaps they were a source of confidence and joy in the past and now you’re in need of finding that feeling again.

4) You’re craving intimacy or connection

Sometimes when we think about someone from our past, it’s because in some way we are missing those similar intimate feelings in our life.

But that doesn’t mean it is specifically them who we want to see again. Or that we miss talking to them in particular. We just crave some sort of connection.

Your ex and the connection you once shared is a representation of this.

This is why dreams about exes can sometimes seem so real and bring up a lot of emotions. They’re not just random thoughts; they’re actually based on a desire for closeness.

This is especially true if you were close to this ex before breaking up. Even if you aren’t close now, in your mind he/she still represents those loving feelings you felt at the time.

If you felt happy, secure, safe, and have a sense of belonging with this ex at some point — or they represent those things to you — it’s likely that you are craving those feelings now.

5) You’re releasing unspoken words

At the end of a relationship, a lot can be left unsaid.

Particularly if you had something to tell your ex in the dream, it could be about certain unspoken words or fears finding a voice.

When we talk about dreams being symbols, one thing we often forget is that they can also be messages.

They can tell us things about ourselves as well as others. And sometimes, they can even speak directly to our fears and anxieties.

You might be unconsciously trying to communicate certain things by saying them in your dreams.

In some ways, it is a psychological release for you. You are getting to say the things that you didn’t have the opportunity to say all those years ago.

6) Your dream contains a hidden message

As we’ve already established, dreams about an ex are quite common. 

Now, some dreams seem to be random, some are the result of past experiences and unresolved issues, while others still carry a deeper – spiritual – meaning. 

I’m talking about:

  • Messages from the universe: Many people believe that dreams are not just random images and thoughts but rather messages from the universe or the spirit world that are supposed to guide you.
  • Symbols in dreams: These messages often come in the form of symbols and images such as number sequences, colors, and animals.
  • Prophetic dreams: It’s believed that some of these dreams can provide insight into future events or experiences.
  • Spiritual journey: Some dreams are there to provide guidance and direction to help with a person’s personal growth and development.

Whatever the message is, one thing’s for sure—it reflects some of your feelings in your waking life, maybe even some relationship concerns you might have now.

7) You have similar relationship concerns now

Dreams about an ex can also be related to how you feel in your relationships in general.

Studies have found that significant themes from relationships can reappear in our dreams.

For example, if you have been cheated on by a partner, research has shown you are more likely to have dreams about infidelity compared to people who haven’t been cheated on.

If you are feeling insecure in a current relationship, you may be dreaming about a past relationship where you also felt less than confident. Or perhaps you feel like there isn’t enough love in your current relationship, and this was a problem with your ex too.

The reason why your dream is about your ex is that you are subconsciously comparing your current situation to things that you also felt with them.

The parallels between your ex and relationship issues now don’t even need to be romantic.

There could be something about your ex that reminds you about a situation you are dealing with at work with your boss, or in your social life with a friend.

8) You haven’t moved on

Do you still have feelings for this ex? It might be years since you broke up, but there is no timetable for healing.

Plenty of people still hold a torch for their exes. You might look at them as the one that got away. Which leads you to think about them fondly or wonder what could have been.

Maybe you want to get back together with them?

If you haven’t really moved on, it’s not surprising that your ex makes an appearance in your dream no matter how long it’s been since you were together.

If you know that you do think of this person anyway during your waking house (even if it’s only from time to time), this will make it more likely for you to think of them when you go to sleep too.

Even if you don’t want to get back together, it doesn’t mean there aren’t still some unresolved feelings going on in the background.

Our dreams are a common way in which we process our emotions and navigate tricky feelings and experiences.

9) You’re missing something they represent to you

Dreaming about your ex doesn’t mean you miss them per se. It could mean though that you miss something you once had in your life.

That might be a quality that your ex had. For example, if they were really thoughtful, super reliable, or always knew how to make you laugh.

In this sense, rather than it being the ex that you’re longing for, it’s actually an aspect of them.

It might not even be one of your ex’s personality traits that you are missing. It can also be something you miss about yourself or your life in general from that time.

Maybe it was a time in your life when you had no commitments and were footloose and fancy-free. You are subconsciously yearning back to those times.

If things have felt unsteady recently, perhaps you crave the days when everything was more stable in your life. And this time that particular ex represents this to you.

10) You’re craving novelty

It can be really confusing when you dream about an ex despite being in a relationship at the moment, or when you feel totally over your ex.

One explanation for this is that your brain is simply craving some novelty. When life feels a little monotonous, we can daydream back to times gone by.

Of course, it’s not the reality of the situation. Chances are that you broke up for good reason. But from where you are right now, your ex can represent a change — which in itself can be exciting.

Particularly if you have sex dreams about an ex, you’re potentially craving the excitement and passion of being with someone different.

It’s not to say that you’re unhappy in your relationship. But routine can make us seek some diversity, which then manifests through our dream world.

During pandemic lockdowns, there was a huge increase in people dreaming about their exes. Experts put this down to our inability to go out and mingle. In short: we were bored.

Because it was harder to create new fulfilling and exciting memories, we thought back over the old ones.

How to interpret your dream about an ex

As you have probably seen by now, there are many explanations for why you would dream about an ex.

The reason is ultimately as unique as you are, and so you will need to do a bit of detective work and tune into which explanations make the most sense.

There are many theories about why we dream in the first place, but no conclusive answers. Interpreting your dream will depend on which theories you subscribe to.

Largely, experts believe the main purpose of dreams is to help us to:

  • Solidify memories
  • Rehearse potentially threatening situations to be more prepared for real life
  • Process emotions
  • Express our desires

Understanding your dream relies on asking yourself certain questions. Remember that dreams are largely symbolic. So it’s about finding out what elements of your dream mean specifically to you.

Ask yourself:

  • What feelings were present in the dream with your ex? That’s because it’s emotions that are the real root cause of any dream. So these emotions (whether they are anger, regret, sadness, loss, happiness, etc.) are your signposts to what it’s all about.
  • Have you been feeling any similar feelings in your waking life recently? If these same feelings that your ex brought up have been themes in your real life, it’s likely to be this current situation you are actually dreaming about.
  • What does your ex represent to you? Remember, dreams are symbols. Your ex is a symbol of something to you. Working out what can help you identify if it’s something you feel like you are currently missing from life, yearning for, or reminiscing about.

Why do I keep dreaming about my ex and I get back together?

Dreaming about getting back with an ex can reflect lingering feelings over your relationship. But it can also be that you are still processing certain emotions from the breakup.

Sure, but why do I keep dreaming about my ex even though I’m over him/her?

In these instances, it could be down to some red flags that you are being altered to in a current relationship.

For example, if your new girlfriend is incredibly jealous, you might be subconsciously reminded of your ex who has the same destructive trait.

Then again, it might have zero to do with your ex and the real meaning is hidden in the details.

For example, where are you in the dream? What are the circumstances? Do any emotions or details stand out?

This could be the true meaning of the dream and the ex is merely a character helping you to play it all out.

If I dream about my ex does it mean he misses me?

There have been some reported cases of telepathy through dreams — in the form of people sharing the same dream. But the reality is this is most likely wishful thinking.

Our dreams say a lot more about us than the people who appear in them. That’s why it’s far more likely that your dreaming about an ex who you miss or want to get back is a reflection of your thoughts and feelings, not there’s.

The sad truth, if you want to get your ex back, is that dreaming about them doesn’t tell you how they are feeling. So how can you get your ex back?

In this situation, there’s only one thing to do – re-spark their romantic interest in you.

I learned about this from Brad Browning, who has helped thousands of men and women get their exes back. He goes by the moniker of “the relationship geek”, for good reason.

In this free video, he’ll show you exactly what you can do to make your ex want you again.

No matter what your situation is — or how badly you’ve messed up since the two of you broke up — he’ll give you a number of useful tips that you can apply immediately.

Here’s a link to his free video again. If you really want your ex back, this video will help you do this.

Why do I keep dreaming about my ex when I’m happily married?

Dreaming about an ex when you are happily married or in a happy relationship is nothing to worry about.

If the dream was a pleasant one, it’s not necessarily the ex you are thinking of. It could be that time in your life and those happy emotions.

This may be the case when life is particularly stressful, busy, or lacking in fun right now. It’s easy for our brain to use rose-tinted glasses to look back at other times in our lives longingly.

Perhaps you never really got closure with your ex. And although you have clearly moved on to a committed and happy relationship, that doesn’t mean you don’t feel something for your ex.

Finally, it’s important to remember that all relationships, no matter how good they are, experience strained periods. If it feels like something has been lacking in your relationship recently, you may dream of your ex simply because you are yearning for a feeling they once gave you.

To conclude: Dreaming about an ex years later meaning

Hopefully, this article has shed some light on your dream about an ex.

Even if it hasn’t provided any concrete answers, fingers crossed that what it has made you realize is that dreaming about an ex years later is:

  • pretty common
  • not a big deal

It doesn’t necessarily mean you miss your ex, that you want to get back together, or that you are unhappy in your current relationship.

But it can still provide some interesting insights into how you are feeling, any secret desires you have, and areas of life that might feel like they are currently lacking.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

31 surprising signs your best friend is in love with you

10 reasons you can’t stop thinking about someone (real psychology)