By Chris Seiter

Updated on January 11th, 2022

This is the ultimate guide to dreaming about your ex boyfriend.

For years scientists and research haven’t been able to agree on what the purpose of dreams are which makes understanding why you’re dreaming about your ex boyfriend so difficult to pin down.

However, my team and I think we’ve come up with a pretty legitimate hypothesis and identified four core reasons for why we think you’re dreaming about your ex boyfriend so much.

  1. Memory Storage Reasons
  2. Dream Therapy
  3. Fight or Flight Theory
  4. Nightmare Fuel

Now, I feel it’s important to mention that all of these are just theories by research and haven’t been definitely proven by science. Our hope is that as you read this article you gain more clarity on why you’re dreaming so much about your ex.

Let’s begin.

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Reason #1: Memory Storage Reasons

One of the most widely held theories behind the purpose of dreams is that they are essentially used to store important information and memories away.

Additionally dreams can be used to sort through complicated thoughts and feelings

Due to the abstract nature of this article I decided to pull in a little help from my private facebook support group. I asked them one simple question,

I’m writing an article on dreaming about your ex, a topic that researchers really haven’t been able to agree on so the article will tend to be a bit more abstract than normal. I’m wondering if anyone here has been having dreams about their ex and what they think they mean. 

After an hour I had 33 responses and really those responses fall into three camps.

  1. Participants dreamt of real life memories they had with their exes
  2. Participants thought their dreams were a way of processing the breakup
  3. Participants had nightmares about their exes

Interestingly these three camps encompass all of the theories that researchers believe have to do with dreams but I’d like to focus on that first one.

If you are having a dream about real life moments with your ex then it literally could be your brain trying to sort through information on what’s important to keep versus what’s important to discard.

Further backing this assertion up is my research into the peak end rule.

If you aren’t familiar the peak end rule states that we remember experiences/memories based on two distinct points. The peak positive or negative moments and the end moments.

Here’s a visual representation of that,

So, here’s my question for you. If you are having dreams about real life events that occurred are they the peak moments and end moments? If I were to betting men they probably would be.

Reason #2: Dream Therapy

A few years ago a post was written on this website about the anatomy of a breakup. That post isn’t the most popular on our website but it may be among the most important because it details the chemical reaction that breakups have.

For example, look at the major chemicals at the beginning of a relationship,

Everything is elevated. This is often what we refer to as “the honeymoon period.” Of course, all good things don’t last forever and there is a regression to the mean towards the middle of a relationship.

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Take note that some of the chemical levels are still elevated like oxytocin and vasopressin. Of course, everything is about to change when you go through a breakup. Look at what happens then,

It’s almost like gravity pulls all the chemicals down with the notable exception of cortisol.

Cortisol of course is often associated with stress and the more stressed you become the more erratic your moods will be and the more out of control your life will seem.

What does any of this have to do with dreams. Well, everything I just explained to you was designed to show you how much emotional trauma breakups have. One of the most commonly held theories is that dreaming about your ex is essentially your brains way of holding a therapy session.

Dream Therapy: Another commonly held theory is that dreams operate on a much more emotional level and can help you process emotional dramas in your life.

Of course, just because your brain is potentially allowing you to process the emotions doesn’t mean it will be wholly effective. I asked my private facebook support group if they had experienced any dreams about their exes and got a HUGE response but what was interesting to me was the wide variety of takes people had on it.

For example, this woman found her dream stressful,

While this woman found her dreams to be her subconscious simply processing her emotions,

I personally think there is some merit to the idea that dreams are your brains way of processing the breakup. Nevertheless, that isn’t the only interpretation researchers have come up with.

Reason #3: Fight or Flight Theory

The amygdala is one of the most active parts of your brain when you sleep. What’s interesting about this is that the amygdala is the part that’s associated with fight or flight.

It could be that dreaming about your ex is your brains way of getting you ready to deal with the emotional threat of trauma.

Lately I’ve been working on this side hustle project of writing a fantasy novel. I know it seems like an odd quirk but it’s something that I enjoy immensely but perhaps the most interesting thing about working on a project like that is it leads you down these insane rabbit holes that you’d never think you’d go down.

I ended up doing a lot of research about Nazi Germany and their mistreatment of the Jews during the holocaust. To the point that I started reading this incredible book called, Night by Elie Wiesel

Like I said, I went down the rabbit hole but sometimes going down that rabbit hole can teach you things that you can use to teach your coaching clients. The amount of trauma that was suffered by the Jewish people during the Holocaust is horrifying and that trauma unfortunately didn’t end after they were saved.

I vividly recall the story of a survivors kids telling reporters that their mother would wake up every night screaming due to the trauma suffered.

Now, I bring this up to really illustrate the point of the amygdala. It’s preparing you to deal with threats upon waking up. By no means am I suggesting that a breakup is even in the same realm as something as horrific as the holocaust but I am suggesting that breakups are a type of trauma and your brain could be using your dreams to prepare you for the stress of the upcoming day.

Of course this flight or flight mentality leads us seamlessly to our next reason.

Reason #4: Nightmare Fuel

A good number of participants in the facebook study mentioned that they had dreams about their exes that were classified as nightmares.

Fun fact: the entire reason I decided to even write this article is because I woke up this morning with one of the scariest nightmares I’ve had in recent memory. 

So, what is going on when we have nightmares?

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Nightmare Fuel: Nightmares are often associated with stress or anxiety.

What’s more stressful and anxiety filled than a breakup?

Take a look at some of the women who mentioned they had nightmares about their exes.

This woman who happens to be a moderator of our group said,

I used to have dreams of my Ex Recovery Program ex when I was in my process. Nightmares really where he’d be talking to me and telling me things I didn’t want to hear but needed to accept. I tackled this in therapy and found out that I dream of things that I do not face or that I am worried about. I thankfully don’t have these types of dreams anymore thanks to my work with this program and therapy. I still do dream of things I can’t face or I worry about but I have the tools to ground me and know that I have to find/fix the root cause.

Brilliantly said.

Take a look at this nightmare fuel,

Here’s what she had to say,

Yes, I dream of us getting back together and having normal times. Sometimes I dream about them breaking up with me again. Actually I would consider that one a nightmare.

So, as you can see from these two examples the nightmares were caused by stress, trauma and anxiety.

What Do The Statistics Say About Dreaming About Your Ex Boyfriend?

I mentioned above that 33 people responded to my facebook poll.

I also mentioned that I divided those 33 people up into three camps,

  1. Participants dreamt of real life memories they had with their exes
  2. Participants thought their dreams were a way of processing the breakup
  3. Participants had nightmares about their exes

What were the most common camps?

Well, I did the tallying for you and the results are interesting.

  1. Real life memories = 6 answers (18%)
  2. Processing the breakup: 15 answers (45%)
  3. Nightmare fuel = 12 answers (37%)

So, it seems like most people are using dreams to process their breakup but what was really fascinating to me was how many people had nightmares about their exes which really fits with the fight or flight or trauma theme.

Real life memories was the least common occurrence in dreams but when it did show up the participants were really vivid about the memories.

So, why is it that we dream so much about exes after a breakup? Well, I think the answer lies in synergy. More than one participant mentioned that they had multiple dreams about their exes.

Sometimes a nightmare.

Sometimes a “processing” dream.

I had to make the executive decision on where to assign a tally during situations like that but that hidden pattern might be the key to understanding what’s going on internally during our sleep cycles.

My big theory right now is that everyone probably goes through vary cycles of these camps we just don’t always remember our dreams. I mean think about it for a moment.

With real life memories the nostalgia takes over. Your brain wants to pick which memories to store away for later.

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With processing the breakup dreams your ex will show up in a situation that makes no sense logically. We still technically aren’t over the breakup and maybe are having trouble processing it.

Nightmares are perhaps the most obvious.




All of these contribute to the horror of a nightmare and breakups are a pretty good catalyst for those things.

I think the timing of when you have these dreams is an important factor to look at. Unfortunately I didn’t dive that deep but if I were to hazard a guess,

  1. Nightmares probably occur immediately after a breakup.
  2. Processing happens somewhere in the middle.
  3. Nostalgia happens last.

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