“I dreamed my partner was cheating on me. It felt so real. Should I confront him? Please help.”
Every week I receive at least one email asking this question. So, what’s the answer? Is the dream picking up on the partner’s actual cheating behaviour or unfulfilled desires? Is it about the dreamer’s fear of being cheated, perhaps based on past experiences of betrayal? Or does this dream have an entirely different meaning?
The danger of this kind of dream is that it gnaws away at you, especially if it is a recurring dream, and especially if it’s realistic. If your partner is bedding a famous film actor, for example, you won’t spend a moment worrying about whether the dream was true, but if his dream lover was someone you know, or one of his work colleagues, your suspicions might be aroused. You might wonder whether he’s having an affair, would like to have an affair, or is more attracted to the friend or work colleague than to you. You might start to question your partner about his or her time away from you, or you might withdraw emotionally or physically, creating relationship difficulties where none existed before. All based on a dream that felt real.
Cheating dreams are not what they seem. Further in this post I will give some guidelines on what they mean, but to help you understand this, have a think about this first:
Dreams that feel real can get you into trouble. People spend years fruitlessly searching for a soul mate they met in a dream that felt real. They look for someone with the same physical characteristics as the dream mate, or with the same name, or in the same location. Unless chance steps their way, they fail because the dream is about finding the other half of your own soul (or vitality) when it has been lost. When you have found the lost part of your own soul, you are more likely to attract your true soul mate, but the journey must start within.
Another common dream that feels so real is the one experienced by many new parents. The dream shows their child dying, usually either by drowning or car accident. The emotional intensity is so heightened that the terrified parent can become stressed and overprotective, believing the dream is a preview of the child’s death. But this dream is so common that if it really was predictive the human race would have died out long ago. The meaning of this dream varies from parent to parent, but it’s generally about the many changes that parenting brings into your life. (You can read more about the symbolism of death dreams here.)
The soul mate dream and the child death dream are both examples of dreams that feel so real the dreamers take them literally. They search for their soul mate because they’ve met him in a dream, and they do everything they can to prevent the death they feel they have previewed. Are you beginning to see the connection to cheating dreams?
I recently heard about a woman who had horrific dreams during her first pregnancy. The early dreams were about neglecting babies. In some dreams she forgot to feed them, in others she forgot to change their nappies. She mentioned them briefly to her partner, but in a light-hearted manner, testing his response, laughing them off. She didn’t tell him the dreams were worrying her or that she had decided the dreams meant she would be a bad mother. The more she worried about being a bad mother, the worse the dreams became. They escalated in neglect, abuse and violence. In one of the last dreams before her baby was born, she dreamed she placed the baby on the road and drove a truck over him.
She didn’t take the dreams literally. She knew she would never place her baby in front of a truck. But she did take the symbol of the baby literally. She saw her dreams as being about her future relationship with her baby.
What she didn’t know was that her dreams are very common. Mothers, fathers, teenagers, people who have decided never to have children, and people who have missed the opportunity to have a child may ALL experience this kind of dream. It’s not a dream about bad mothering instincts. It’s not a dream about real babies. It’s a dream about neglecting your own needs. It’s a bit like the soul mate dream. It’s about looking after yourself so that you can be healthy and well, for example to look after your baby.
As it turned out, this woman suffered antenatal depression. She only realised this in the later stages of her pregnancy. Her dream baby was the part of herself that needed caring for, that needed help and treatment. Sadly, because her early dreams felt so real, she suffered misgivings about her ability to be a good mother on top of her depression. She may or may not also have had real fears or beliefs about becoming a bad mother, but that was not what her dream was about.
By now you can see that there are dangers in taking a dream literally, even when the dream feels so real. The same applies to cheating dreams.
Beware ever taking a dream literally. To do so can be dangerous to yourself and others, as well as missing out on the helpful insight your dream can give you. There are occasions where some dreams turn out to be predictive, but these are rare, and by focussing on this angle you stand to lose all the personal insight each and every dream offers.
Dreams are about you. The soul mate, child, baby, or cheating partner is a symbol for what’s going on within you.
Dreams about cheating are about what’s going on within you. Cheating is a betrayal of trust, a promise broken. Cheating is lying. When you have these dreams, ask yourself where you might be cheating yourself. Here are some examples:
1. You may be lying to yourself about something. There may be something in your life you don’t really want to admit. You deny it to others and you may deny it to yourself too. In other words, you may be ‘in denial’ over something. Explore your feelings more honestly.
2. You may be betraying something you once promised. Your promise might have been ‘I won’t eat any more chocolate,’ or ‘I will become a surgeon,’ or ‘Fromthis moment on, I’ll only think positive thoughts,’ or ‘I will live by the laws of my religion,’ or ‘I will always please my mother’. Your cheating dream may come up because you have broken your promise by eating a chocolate, thinking negative thoughts, or not doing something for the sake of pleasing your mother, for example. Your dreaming mind takes betraying promises very seriously, even when it may be healthier for you to release yourself from the hold of promises no longer appropriate to your wellbeing.
3. You may be cheating yourself out of giving life your best shot. You might be holding back from expressing your talents in the world, betraying your ideals, or settling for second best.
4. You may be going through some changes, exchanging old beliefs and old ways of looking at the world for new ones. At such times, halfway between the old and the new, your conflicted mind may feel like it’s betraying the old way, turning its back on things you’ve trusted up until now. Your cheating dreams may reflect this kind of transition.
So, don’t confront your partner when you next have a cheating dream. Confront yourself. Dreams help you to understand yourself more clearly, and, once you can do that, you can make decisions that are right for you.
[Copyright Jane Teresa Anderson, June 2007. First published as a Dream Sight article.]
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