Not a fun feeling to wake up to.
You wake up in a cold sweat, distressed, and slowly begin adjusting back to a reality where your partner is — thankfully — faithful and committed to you. Phew, it was just a nightmare. But it can be unsettling and lead you to wonder, what do dreams about your partner cheating mean? Does this indicate some underlying distrust, insecurity, or deeper problem? Or does it, as many dream symbols do, represent something else entirely?
First off, there's no reason to sound the alarms if you have this unfortunate nightmare. Lauri Loewenberg, a certified dream analyst, tells Elite Daily this is actually a super common dream — in fact, it's one of the top five that her clients ask about. (BTW, in case it makes you feel better, I'll back this up by admitting that my partner and I have both had this exact dream within the last month — dreaming my boyfriend cheated on me is not fun, to say the least.)
But go ahead and breathe a big ol' sigh of relief, because according to Loewenberg, it doesn't necessarily indicate that there's anything wrong in your relationship. If you have this dream out of nowhere, with no history of cheating in your current relationship, then she insists there's nothing to worry about. But dreams often do carry underlying messages, so here are a few things it could mean if you dream about your boyfriend or girlfriend cheating on you. Whether it’s the worst kind of sex dream imaginable, or simply your SO holding hands with someone else, the experts have some ideas about how to interpret it.
You Feel Left Out In The Relationship
"Dreams are symbolic, and if you look at them literally, you will not only totally miss the message, [but] you will also drive yourself crazy," Loewenberg explains. "The most common reason for the cheating dream ... is that the dreamer is dealing with some sense of being left out in waking life, or some element in the relationship is beginning to feel like a third wheel."
The person your partner cheats with probably doesn't represent an actual individual, but rather a symbol for something that may be commanding and consuming more of their time, energy, or attention. For example, if your partner has been working longer hours lately, prioritizing time with their friends over date nights, or has taken up a hobby or side hustle that's become their main focus, those are all observations that could have inspired your dream about infidelity.
Your Partner Hasn’t Been Prioritizing You
Do you feel like your partner has been taking other people's sides instead of standing behind you? According to Loewenberg, that's another theme that could be contributing to this dream. Deep down, you might be worried that your partner isn’t loyal. If your SO has frequently been turning down sex to play Fortnite, that could be the inspiration because you feel like they’re cheating on you with a video game. (And yes, you should definitely have a conversation about this ASAP.)
Cathy Pagano, M.A., a Jungian-trained psychotherapist who specializes in dream work, agrees that this dream is usually about something else your partner is spending their time on — and that the person they're having the dream affair with represents that alternate priority. Since it's healthy for both partners to have outside interests, she says it's important to pay attention to any feelings of jealousy that arise when your partner's focus is elsewhere. For example, if your partner has been watching a lot of porn in place of being intimate with you, that could motivate this dream (because it's pulling their connection to sex and sensuality away from you and toward the images on their screen). That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your partner watching porn, but your feelings are valid, too — and it’s worth having a conversation so you can both share your perspective with each other. Your partner may not even realize you’ve been feeling de-prioritized.
You’re Dealing With Trust Issues
Another more literal interpretation of this dream comes into play if you have trust issues, either stemming from your past experiences or instances in your current relationship in which your partner lied to you. Pamela Cummins, an expert dream interpreter, tells Elite Daily that if you're still wrestling with fears about your partner betraying you in some way, then your subconscious could certainly be trying to work through those worries while you're asleep. If you're currently in a happy and healthy relationship, however, Cummins suggests that this dream is more likely about an unresolved issue from a past romance.
Not all cheating dreams are created equal, of course, and experts agree that it's important to dig deep about the nuances of the situation when trying to figure out the hidden meaning. One of the first elements to look at is who your partner is cheating with. Pagano says it’s important to take note if they're someone you know IRL — and then start unpacking what they represent to your partner. Is there some skill or quality they have that you don't? Are they associated with a component of your partner's life that seems to be consuming them lately?
If your partner is cheating with a coworker in your dream, for example, that could mean they're more focused on pleasing their boss and getting that raise than they are on your relationship. Or, if they're cheating with their ex in your dream, Loewenberg believes that could mean that you feel haunted by some aspect of their past relationship. If your partner is still in contact with their ex, or you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to them, those are factors that can contribute to this kind of dream.
You’re Dreaming Of An Unrecognized Part Of Yourself
Your partner can never meet every single one of your needs — nor can anyone! "We are not really built to put all our energies onto one person, so we each have other parts of ourselves that are symbolized by other people we might know or who are not recognizable," Pagano tells Elite Daily. So, there are basically all these parts of yourself buried deep within that you have yet to meet, or that you haven’t felt connected to in awhile.
With this in mind, sometimes the person in the dream your SO is cheating with will be someone you've never met or don't recognize. According to Pagano, sometimes that new lover can actually represent aspects of your own self that you aren't yet conscious of. In other words, your partner is cheating on you in the dream with another part of you. How wild is that?
How To Work Through Your Feelings
One way to figure out what the third person in the dream symbolizes is to play a word association game. Loewenberg recommends noticing what images, feelings, memories, and words first come to mind when you think about this person (whether they’re real or imaginary). Does that image you associate with them bring up something that's been worrying you? Does the personality trait that came to mind also fit your partner lately? "There is a reason your subconscious chose that particular person to represent a current issue in your relationship," Loewenberg explains. "You have to use free association in order to connect the dots."
If you don't know the person your partner is being unfaithful with, Loewenberg recommends focusing on the emotions you felt in the dream when you discovered your partner was cheating. What in your real life has been making you feel the same way? It might be a betrayal, sadness, or resentment that has nothing to do with your partner.
"Emotions are so important in a dream," Cummins adds. "A feeling of happiness will have a totally different meaning than anger. Different locations will affect the interpretation, too — [your partner cheating in] your childhood bedroom would have a different analysis than on a rooftop. Watching the actual cheating or hearing it from someone you dislike will also alter the dream symbolism."
Loewenberg stresses that nothing is random in your dreams, and every single detail is a piece of the puzzle that can contribute to the meaning. She highly recommends considering how your partner behaved in the dream. Did they deny the infidelity and try to cover it up? Then you may want to consider what else you may feel they've been hiding from you lately. Did they cheat right in front of you like it was NBD? Loewenberg points out that this could represent your partner's general carelessness about another behavior that clearly bothers you. Did they apologize and seem genuinely remorseful? If so, Loewenberg suggests thinking about something else that your partner has expressed regret about lately.
While a dream about your partner cheating can definitely be uncomfortable (or downright alarming), Loewenberg urges you to try to see it as a helpful portal into something that needs to be corrected or addressed. Maybe that means having a conversation with your SO about how much time they've been dedicating to work lately, or maybe it means doing some soul-searching on your own unresolved trust or jealousy issues. Whatever interpretation you ultimately come up with, the important thing to remember is that a dream is usually not a literal depiction of your relationship — it's merely a multi-faceted, richly meaningful look into some unresolved thoughts and emotions.
Lauri Loewenberg, certified dream analyst
Pamela Cummins, expert dream interpreter
Cathy Pagano, psychotherapist
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