As if getting a good night’s sleep during a pandemic weren’t hard enough, what with vivid nightmares threatening every REM cycle, now you may well have to worry about committing adultery every time you close your eyes. Well, not exactly, but according to a recent survey of 1,000 Americans in quarantine by Sleep Standards, 42 percent say they’ve had vivid sexual or romantic dreams, and 21 percent (64 percent of whom are women) say they’re having vivid dreams about their exes while sleeping next to their current partner. So it’s probably safe to deduce that cheating in dreams is on the rise.
Even if you’ve had inappropriate sex dreams in the past, there’s something very specific to note about this uptick, which is who’s doing the cheating in the dreams, and with whom. “Cheating dreams are very common, but it is usually the dreamer that is getting cheated on in their dreams,” says certified dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg. “Since COVID-19 began, I’ve been seeing more dreams where the dreamer is the cheater. And the most common person people have been cheating with in their dreams is their ex.”
“Cheating dreams are very common, but it is usually the dreamer that is getting cheated on in their dreams. Since COVID-19 began, I’ve seen more dreams where the dreamer is the cheater.” —certified dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg
Loewenberg posits that cheating on your partner in a dream might be a reaction to the constant togetherness to which quarantine has subscribed many couples for the first time. After all, she says cheating in dreams often signifies that you feel particularly bound to someone in close quarters, and that you could use a novel change.
“Many no longer have that separate slice of life that’s all their own, the way they did when they went to work or when their partner went to work,” says Loewenberg. “The need for an escape gets stronger and stronger, and the cheating dream happens as a means of an escape. In these cases, the dreamer may find themselves hooking back up with a favorite ex.”
But even if you’re perfectly happy with your partner, even in quarantine, and not, say, annoyed at how loud they breathe or how unhelpful they are with doing household chores, you still may well be experiencing cheating in dreams right now. “Happier couples start to realize they miss the excitement of reuniting after a long day’s work,” says Loewenberg. “They may also start to realize that quarantine is changing the dynamics within the relationship they were used to.” And in effect, this can turn you and your partner into roommates first and romantic companions second—which, y’know, doesn’t always make for the sexiest of vibes.
For example, you might now have to give up the living room, so one partner can use it as an office, or cut your workout time in half so they can get a workout in as well. “In these cases, the quarantine itself starts to feel like a third wheel in the relationship, and that [can] be expressed in the form of a cheating dream,” Loewenberg says.
That’s probably the main takeaway here—that is, quarantine has rerouted and engulfed our love lives (and lives in general) so completely. And it also means that cheating in dreams right now, with an ex or otherwise, likely doesn’t spell doom for your partnership. Research has provided evidence that about half of the characters in your dreams are people you know and recognize by name. Combine that intel with the nostalgia factor that tends to come with glamorizing past experiences, and it makes sense that your ex might be taking up your brain space as you sleep next to your current partner.
More likely than not, your cheating dreams are just a manifestation of you missing your independence and freedom in general—not wanting to be free from your partnership. Hopefully you can rest easy in knowing that.
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