Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

I've been on a trip, so I haven't seen my boyfriend in about a month. This is the longest I've gone without seeing him. Our relationship is excellent, and we have a pretty good sex life, but recently I've been having A LOT of dreams about sleeping with other people. Sometimes it's people we know; sometimes it's strangers; my dreams really don't discriminate... this happens multiple times a week. Usually, I wake up after the dream, and in my foggy state, I fantasize about cheating on him. What should I do? Should I tell him about it or keep it to myself? I'm worried that I am emotionally cheating on him, but I really can't control what I dream!

Signed, Unfaithful Dreamer

Dear, Unfaithful Dreamer

You’re not emotionally cheating; as you said, dreams are something we can’t control. And to put your mind even more at ease, they’re rarely ever literal. Dreams like to function metaphorically. So these cheating dreams you’ve been having are more of a symbol of something else going on in your life.

You could feel emotionally distant from your partner or like you’ve been spending too much time apart from your boyfriend. Perhaps you feel like you’re cheating yourself — whether that be from a more fulfilling career or from having fun with your friends while you’re still young. I’m not a dream interpreter, so I can’t be sure of what’s going on for you.

But what I can help with is how to handle these dreams. Chances are, they won’t magically stop just because we’re talking about them, but that doesn’t mean you should feel guilty. If you want, you can speak to your partner about your concerns, but if this news is more likely to hurt him, I’d probably hold off. There’s no need to upset him over something like this, especially when you aren’t actually cheating on him, nor plan to cheat on him. It would be a whole other thing if you told me how unhappy you were in your relationship and how these dreams started making you think about other people. But you didn’t, so the only reason I’d talk to your boyfriend about this is to alleviate some of the secrecy you’re carrying — but ONLY if you think he could handle it objectively (A.K.A. not think that it's a sign you want to cheat).

What you can do that’s more productive is figure out what feels disconnected in your life. It sounds like work is monopolizing your time right now. What do you think is suffering because of that? Your relationship? Friendships? Overall career goals? Once you figure out what might be a lingering issue that you’re not addressing, you can put some TLC into that aspect of your life. You may find that by doing that, your cheating dreams stop. Guilt is a strong emotion. Just because it’s not apparent doesn’t mean it’s not just below the surface.

Also, as much as I love giving advice, I’m not the all-knowing guru on every matter of love. Spend some time reading about dream interpretations from experts online or the many books that exist out there. You may find them insightful and realize there are more actionable steps you can take to stop them. You’ll also put your mind even more at ease when you know that these kinds of dreams aren’t a sign you’re unhappy with your relationship. A lot of people have them, even the happiest of couples.

All of this is to say: there’s no use in feeling guilty about your dreams once they pass. You can’t control them, so focus on what you can control. Learn more about what these kinds of dreams mean. Invest your energy into the parts of your life that are neglected. Use these dreams as motivation to make some changes that are bound to make you and other people in your life happier.

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