True story: once when I was dating my ex, I had a dream that he was cheating on me and lying about it even though I caught him red-handed (major sad face). I woke up feeling irrationally irritated and angry, my cheeks flushed and my hands clenched together, as though this was really going on in real life. Then I turned over, grabbed my phone and texted him something like, “you’re so mean” before I realized it was all just a dream. I would say it ended there, but actually I spent the rest of the morning feeling oddly annoyed and suddenly a little bit worried about my relationship.
Apparently, I’m not alone in letting my dreams affect my relationship. Which, really, is a relief, because I’ve done this more than a few times and I was starting to feel like I was crazy. (Also, it makes my boyfriend mad and so then we end up fighting about the meanings of my dreams.) A new study shows that science is backing me up here – what goes on in your dreams really can affect your relationship.
Researcher Dylan Selterman did a study on 61 people in relationships by having them keep dream journals. They also wrote down the quality of their relationship each day. What he found was that what happens in your dreams can determine what your relationship will be like the next day. So if you have a nightmare about your boyfriend, you two are more likely to get in a fight the next day. Similarly, if you have a great sex dream about your BF, you’re more likely to feel more loving towards him the next day. So, as it turns out, I am not crazy! At least in this instance.
Why does this happen? Apparently Dylan thinks that “these correlations are the result of ‘priming,’ the process by which a stimulus evokes a related response. For instance, previous research has shown that placing someone on a wobbly chair triggers a desire for stable relationship partners. This mechanism, of course, operates on a largely unconscious level.”
So what exactly does this mean? Do our dreams really have deeper meanings? If you dream about your BF cheating on you, does that mean he really is? Um, no – our dreams aren’t magic (I wish they were though). But it is possible that if you’re frequently dreaming about your BF cheating, that could be your real-life distrust of him carrying over to dreamland. It could be a sign that maybe you really don’t trust this guy.
The good news is that if you’re in a good relationship, you don’t feel these negative effects as much after a nightmare. That completely makes sense to me. I constantly used to have nightmares about my ex – obviously, we eventually broke up because we didn’t have a great relationship. Now, when I have nightmares about my current boyfriend, I’m less likely to wake up in a rage ready to fight with him over something that never happened – because I know he wouldn’t actually do that to me.
The moral of the story is this: you shouldn’t feel so bad if a dream causes you to actually fight with your partner. Apparently, it’s not really your fault! But, in all seriousness, try to keep in mind that your dream is not real before you start asking him if he’s ever cheated on you or whatever.
Do you ever have nightmares about your partner? If you do, does that make you guys fight the next day? Have you ever fought with anyone over a dream? Tell me in the comments!