Saturday, November 04, 2017

Dreaming of a Former Sweetheart

Dear Andrew,

I am happily married but I have been dreaming for years about a former sweetheart. Gavin and I dated a long time in real life and both broke each other's heart.

He and I are always together in this recurring dream and things are wonderful. Then I ask him where his current girlfriend is and he says it didn't work out. I feel torn because I like his girlfriend. Gavin professes his love to me and I am happy because we are together.

The other night I had a new dream. Gavin and I were together and he was having a hard time leaving me. I told him go to his girlfriend and love her because I already had my chance with him and I blew it. His girlfriend told me that our friendship needs to be put on hold because of everything. I cried in this dream the same way as I did when Gavin and I broke up many years ago in real life. All my feelings and my thoughts in this dream were so real. Then I woke up so sad.

The thing is I rarely have any contact with Gavin anymore. When I do it is only because we still have common friends. I love my husband very much. He is so good to me.

I feel like I am doing something wrong by having such a dream. Do you have any idea what it might mean?

Signed, Guilty Dreamer

Dear Dreamer,

I am no dream analysis expert. I do believe, though, that our dreams can reflect the thoughts and feelings that are rumbling around in the back of our minds.

One key phrase in your letter stood out to me: "Gavin and I ... broke each other's heart."

I believe you're playing "what if" with yourself. You have never really convinced yourself that you were better off without Gavin. You still play "what would my life be like if we had stayed together." Maybe it's deep in your mind, but it's there and it comes out in your dreams.

You need to look around, realize you have a great life and do what you should have done years ago ... you need to break up with the idea of Gavin. He still holds this mythical, special, rose-colored place in your mind. He might not be all the way to a full regret or an active yearning, but he's close. You've never fully let go.

If you had much contact with Gavin now, you'd probably realize he's just a guy and the grass is no greener over there. You must have had reasons back then for breaking up with him, which means "What could have been" is likely not as good as "What is." I suspect the more you can simply accept what happened and that it was for the best, the less you will have those types of dreams.

I don't think these dreams constitute any kind of betrayal of your husband, in large part because I don't think we have any control over our dreams. Yours are a reflection of a niggling fear that you might have missed out on something, that you might have failed in some way to take advantage of past opportunities. Fears and feelings of failure can be persistent. They like to crop up even if we would like them to go away.

So give your husband a big hug and toss that guilt out the window where it belongs. Who knows, maybe some night soon you'll have a dream where you break up with Gavin and tell him you know with all your heart that this is the right thing to do. I suspect it's long overdue.

All the best,
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