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What It Means If You Dream Your Significant Other Is Cheating On You, According To Experts
Here are a few common cheating dream meanings — plus how to handle it if happens to you.
What Dreams About Your Partner Cheating On You Actually Mean
Don’t jump to any conclusions.
Dean Mitchell/E+/Getty Images
By Laken Howard and Nina Kahn
Updated: May 25, 2021
Originally Published: Jan. 24, 2018
Perhaps the only thing that could feel worse than having dreams about your partner cheating on you is having it happen in real life. When a bad dream about cheating hits close to home, it can bring up all the same negative emotions, trust issues, and insecurities that we’d feel if we’d actually experienced the events in our waking life — even if there's no doubt in your conscious mind that your partner is true to you. But what does it mean to dream of your partner cheating?
Just because a lover is unfaithful to you in dreamland doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be suspicious of any indiscretions. In fact, dreams about being cheated on are among the most common types of nightmares: Studies have shown that nearly one in four Americans have had a dream about cheating or being cheated on. While it might feel like a horrible betrayal when the dream is still fresh, it doesn’t indicate that you’re picking up on any subtle signals.
"Dreams are not predictions — they are metaphors and symbols for conflicts that we are struggling to wrestle with, make sense of, and resolve," relationship expert and psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish tells Bustle. "How you feel in the dream is the key to how you are feeling in real life." That said, paying attention to how a cheating dream makes us feel is more important than fixating on the nitty-gritty details — as this could point toward repressed feelings that we’re struggling with in our waking life. It's important to reflect and try to identify the source of those feelings, as they can reveal a lot about our emotional state. And ultimately, you might find that they aren’t actually related to your partner at all.
So what does it mean when you dream about your partner cheating on you? Here are a few common cheating dream meanings — plus how to handle it if happens to you.
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You’re Having Trust Issues
While dreaming of an unfaithful partner doesn’t mean they’re untrustworthy in waking life, it could mean you’re struggling with some fears about the relationship or trust issues in general. "Bad dreams are hypothesized to be a form of emotional release, [so] dreaming about your partner cheating is likely related to a deep fear you have," certified sleep science coach Chris Brantner tells Bustle. “Maybe it's an actual fear of cheating or maybe it's some more abstract form of mistrust.”
Trust issues can take on many forms, so even if you’re not consciously worried about cheating in a relationship, it’s helpful to examine any other part of your life where you’re afraid to be vulnerable or honest. "Take a look inward and try to identify where your trust issues could stem from,” Brantner says. “That mistrust may have to do with your partner, [but] it could even be mistrust in yourself."
You’re Processing Other Big Feelings In Your Relationship
As crappy as cheating nightmares might feel in the moment, they can actually help you process feelings when you're upset, stressed, or adjusting to life changes.
"While nightmares can be anxiety-inducing, they can be good for you," Brantner says. "Your brain is able to sort through and process your day's activities [and] it's during this time that insights can be made and problem-solving can be honed for daytime performance.”
That said, cheating in a dream may simply be a symbol for any other struggle or stressor you’re experiencing with your partner — and the dream itself could be a way for your brain to work through the emotional ups, downs, and changes with your relationship. “Some experts believe that dreaming is ... a way for your brain to prepare for difficult encounters later on,” Brantner says. “You can think of dreaming almost as an overnight therapy."
You’re Feeling Betrayed In Other Parts Of Your Life
The betrayal and pain we feel when we have dreams of a partner cheating can be visceral. And while it’s important to pay attention to the feelings these dreams trigger, we should keep in mind that it could point to issues happening outside of the relationship.
“If you dream that your significant other is cheating and in the dream you feel betrayed, hurt, and angry, you need to ask yourself where in your current life you are feeling betrayed, hurt, and angry, too” Walfish says. “You may be surprised that it has nothing to do with your significant other. You may be feeling these emotions with a coworker or employer, or your mother!" Analyze where these feelings are showing up in your waking life, and don’t limit yourself to your romantic partnership. A cheating dream could indicate that there are other situations in your life that have left you feeling betrayed or frustrated.
Your Relationship May Need Better Communication
When you dream about your partner cheating, it might mean that you need to develop stronger communication skills within your relationship and open up about any beneath-the-surface fears. "[Cheating] dreams could be an indication that trust is deteriorating in your relationship," health and wellness consultant Caleb Backe tells Bustle. "You should address these feelings sooner than later, [as] they can put a great deal of strain on your relationship — you might start to stress and worry about things that aren’t true rather than dealing with them openly in a mature and honest way.”
What Do Dreams About Your Partner Cheating Mean? Here's What Experts Say
Dreaming your boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating on you is no fun, but it doesn't necessarily mean there's anything wrong in your relationship.
HERE'S WHAT EXPERTS SAY IT COULD MEAN IF YOU DREAM ABOUT YOUR SO CHEATING
Not a fun feeling to wake up to.
BY REBECCA STRONG
UPDATED: DEC. 10, 2021
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: JULY 28, 2020
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?
What Dreams About Cheating Actually Mean, According to Experts
Dreams about cheating can be unsettling. Find out their true meaning with the help of psychologists.
Here's What Dreams About Cheating Are Trying to Tell You About Your Relationship
It can be a passing thought or a feeling of "self-betrayal or guilt."
Aug 11, 2021 @ 1:52 pm
CREDIT: DANGRYTSKU, GETTY IMAGES
The purpose of dreams has been a debated topic for a long time. There are many theories for why we have dreams and their hidden meanings. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly, dreams can be a way of offloading excess stress, thoughts, or emotional energy. In other cases, some say dreams can give insights into your mind and repressed emotions. If this is the case, what does it mean when you have a negative dream, like breaking up with your partner or worse a dream about cheating?
For those who are in a romantic relationship, waking up and realizing you had a dream about cheating or being cheated on can be unsettling and trigger silent feelings of insecurity about your relationship. On the other hand, if you're single and having dreams about cheating (either on a previous ex or total stranger), that can be equally confusing on what is going on in your subconscious.
We know that dreams about cheating don't feel good at the moment, so to help you uncover the true meaning of your dreams, we tapped two psychologists for expert help. Keep reading to learn if your dreams about cheating actually symbolize something bigger and how to deal with them.
What does it mean if you have dreams about cheating and you are in a romantic relationship?
A dream about cheating on your partner can have many meanings, says, New York City-based neuropsychologist, Dr. Sanam Hafeez. "Cheating on your partner in a dream could mean something is missing from your relationships, such as passion or excitement. It could also mean you feel unfulfilled by your sex life or you have a crush on someone else," she says.
Dreams of cheating could also hint at fears you may have about the behavior or could signal something entirely different like cheating on something else in your life, such as addiction recovery, explains Dr. Hafeez. If you have dreams that your partner is cheating on you, Dr. Manly says that often indicates a lack of trust or sense of security in your partner or relationship.
What does it mean if you have a dream about cheating and you aren't in a romantic relationship?
As Dr. Hafeez previously mentioned, dreaming about cheating can mean almost anything. If you're dreaming about cheating and aren't in a romantic relationship, it could hint at something going on within yourself. "It may signify you have feelings of self-betrayal or guilt in your life," says Dr. Hafeez.
She further explains it can also represent a situation in your life, romantic or non-romantic, where you were feeling dishonest or going against your integrity. In other words, it could mean that you are "cheating yourself" by not being honest or genuine about your feelings, wants, or needs, says Dr. Manly. "This type of dream can be a wake-up call that's saying you aren't being true to yourself," she says. "There are some things you need to face with honesty so that you can be the best version of yourself."
How should you deal with dreams about cheating in any circumstance?
We know it's tempting, but instead of searching through a random online dream dictionary, Dr. Manly recommends taking a step back and reflect on what's going on in your life to help you decipher your dream. "Many dreams tend to have basic themes across populations, but the decoding process needs to be personal given every person has a unique background and history," she says.
One way to reflect is by journaling. Dr. Manly recommends writing about your dream and life to see if you find any connections or anything that resonates with you. "If the deciphering process doesn't initially yield results, allow yourself to sleep on it (literally), and let your psyche continue to do its work. By paying attention to your dreams, the messages will eventually become clear," she says.
If you find that your dreams about cheating are connected to concerns in your relationship, Dr. Hafeez says to have an open discussion with your partner or a therapist. "Having these conversations may alleviate any worries or anxieties, and you may stop dreaming about cheating."
Ultimately, it's important to remember, dreams can have many meanings. Sometimes it can suggest something bigger is going on, but other times it can just be a passing thought. There's no way to really know what they mean unless you take the time to reflect on your thoughts and life. Dr. Hafeez says, "Take dreams with a grain of salt and as an opportunity to teach you something valuable."