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3 Experts Reveal What Breakup Dreams Actually Mean

They can be unsettling, but they’re not anything to panic over.

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If you’ve ever woken up from a dream and thought, "What the heck did that mean?", you’re not alone. Dreams can be profound, impactful, and even terrifying. And breakup dreams — depending on your current relationship situation — can be all of the above. They can leave you wondering what it really means, and why you're having one in the first place. If you’re currently in a relationship, does dreaming about breaking things off with your partner mean the romance is doomed? If you keep dreaming about a past breakup, does it mean you’re not really over it? And if you're currently single and still dreaming of breakups, what in the world could that possibly be about?

To answer these questions, it's important to understand the role dreams can play in helping you process things on a subconscious level. "Dreams are often opportunities to work out issues and events that concern you," Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, nationally recognized psychotherapist and author of Training Your Love Intuition, tells Elite Daily. "But don't make the mistake of thinking that the 'script' of your dream is a prediction of what will happen or a warning of what you should do. Dreams are not necessarily fortune-tellers or wise seers,” she says. Instead, think of dreams as reminders or a way to bring forth something requiring your attention. Wish offers the comparison to children’s fairy tales that carry a core message or lesson, but shouldn’t be taken literally. While dreams can tell you a bit about your love situation, it’s more of an abstract indicator of your inner thoughts and feelings. With that in mind, here's what the experts say all those recurring breakup dreams you've been having really mean.

What Does It Mean When You Dream About Your Partner Leaving You?

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When you dream about breaking up with your partner, it can be extremely unsettling, but don't panic. While Karen Frazier, author of The Dream Interpretation Handbook, says that sometimes these dreams can be literal and indicate it's time to end your relationship, oftentimes they're much less straightforward. “A breakup dream could also signify that it’s time to end certain patterns in your relationship or to take your relationship to a new level," Frazier tells Elite Daily. "These dreams don’t necessarily foretell the end of a relationship. They might also be telling you it’s time to let certain aspects of your relationship go so you can move onto something that serves you better."

Dreams about your partner leaving you could also be a warning sign from your subconscious that you're feeling insecure in the relationship, clinical psychologist Dr. John Mayer tells Elite Daily. “Such dreams can identify some performance anxiety you may harbor about your actions and feelings in the relationship, and performance anxiety can make us motivated to do better in the relationship. If you're overconfident in the relationship and therefore, not have a breakup dream, you can take the other person for granted and that can doom a relationship." So, rough as your night’s sleep may have been, these types of dreams could inspire you to make needed positive changes in your relationship — dreaming about breaking up does not have to be a bad thing. Maybe you dreamt that your partner broke up with you because of something you subconsciously knew you wanted to improve on, this can come as a clear sign that deep down you desire to correct whatever habit or pattern it may be. Awareness is key and dreams are the brain’s *super cool* way to bring things to light.

And finally, in some cases, a breakup dream can be a red flag from your subconscious that you need to take a closer look at the relationship, says Wish. “Your dream might be telling you to think about you, your partner, and recent and past issues,” she explains. “Breaking up could be the best thing to do if your partner's not a good match or a good person, but your dream could also be about breaking up because you don't want to face your issues. Use your dream as a prompt to do some deep, serious, and brave self-exploration.” It’s not a bad idea to keep a dream journal, where you can map out any recurring breakup dreams and navigate your subconscious feelings. This will make it easier to get to the root of the issue, whether it’s that you want to actually break up or have some kind of underlying issue to face.

What Do Breakup Dreams When You're Single Mean?

Even though you can't technically break up with someone when you're single, you can still dream about breaking up. However, these dreams are more likely to mean something different. “A breakup dream when you’re not partnered is most likely symbolic,” says Frazier. “The most common interpretation is that there’s something in your life that's no longer serving you, and it’s time to let that go.” To learn what that could be, Frazier says to try to remember the surrounding details in your dream. They could be clues. “For example, look for dominant traits of the person you’re breaking up with, [or] the place the breakup is occurring. These are context clues that can help you to better understand what the dream is suggesting it’s time to let go of.” Maybe you were at a landmark location in your current city when your partner in the dream broke up with you. Your subconscious could be focusing more on the place and telling you it’s the end of the line with that commitment, rather than the imaginary spouse, for example.

These dreams can also represent how you feel about relationships in general at the moment, says Wish. “It could be about your fears of committing. Heed the message that you need to take a self-inventory about you and your fears and doubts about your life,” she advises. Breaking up doesn’t have to mean with a romantic partner — these dreams could be indicating it’s time to “break up” with old habits, a situation, a job, or even a friend.

What Does Dreaming About Past Breakups Mean?

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If a past breakup is still haunting your dreams, Frazier says it's likely because you're still processing residual emotions from that relationship ending. “[These dreams] can also show you that you are still living in the past, or that you’re still clinging to something that doesn’t serve you. The dreams remind you that until you let go, you won’t be able to move forward,” she explains. While this process may be painful, Mayer says these dreams can be "great learning tools and mechanisms for growth." Your dream could be pointing to an aspect of your real-life break up that you haven’t allowed yourself to fully explore and heal from.

Breakup dreams, ultimately, are like every other kind of dream in that they can provide real insight into your subconscious, says Wish. “Dreams are your brain's way of ringing the bell and tapping on your door, to wake up and answer the call to do some deep and effective self-exploration of you and your life. Most of us are afraid to face ourselves, and when we dream about specific topics, such as breaking up, the dream allows our fears to rise to the surface."

Next time you have a dream that you feel is especially meaningful — about breakups or otherwise — don’t be afraid to take a closer look at what it could mean, because you are the best interpreter of your own dreams, says Frazier. “If you suspect a dream means something, you’re probably right. Dreams come from your subconscious, and nobody knows your conscious and subconscious mind better than you. The reason we need our subconscious minds to intervene through dreams is because we often fail to acknowledge consciously what we know in the back of our minds. Our dreams are here to provide us with insight about ourselves,” she explains. “Trust yourself and listen to your dreams. Chances are, you understand them better than you think you do.”

Experts cited:

Karen Frazier, author of The Dream Interpretation Handbook

Dr. John Mayer, clinical psychologist

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, nationally recognized psychotherapist and author of Training Your Love Intuition