What Does It Mean When a Lover, Or An Ex-Lover, Shows Up In Your Dream?

Ariadne Green talks about all those folks walking around in your dreams:

Night dreams present an array of characters. Like actors in a movie, the characters in dreams are developed, reflecting qualities and characteristics that make them unique and important to the storyline. Some represent reflections of yourself, some are reflections of others close to you and some seem foreign but still play a pivotal role. Parts of your personality may emerge—the child, the adult, the wise self, the coward, the hero, members of your family, an invisible self and a cast of characters who all have some piece in working out your struggles and quest for identity and self-acceptance. The characters demonstrate that there are different parts of your personality seeking expression and working on your life problems.

Every character in a dream is important whether a villain or romantic partner. Rather than viewing all characters as merely parts of your own personality, a better approach is to consider them messengers, reflections or complements. In this way, a dream can be more accurately interpreted.

She goes on to outline several different type of people that could show up including the Lover:

A mysterious stranger who embraces you with a kiss and wins your heart is the lover archetype. The lover is a composite of the qualities and traits of a complement and is the reflection your masculine side (if you are a woman) or your feminine side (if you are a man). The archetype holds the power of the unity in your soul and appears in a dream when you are learning to balance the masculine (creative intelligence) with the feminine (emotional intelligence). A romantic partner may also arrive in a dream to mention the dreamer's need for love and intimacy.

There's the generic idea of a lover, then there's the more personal ex-partner dream. TheDreamWell goes on to explore what that could mean:

Dreaming of an ex-partner can happen for a variety of reasons, and is nothing to be ashamed of.  Conversely, these dreams don’t necesarrily mean you want to or should go rushing back to someone you left behind.

Our previous partners in dreams can appear to help us reconcile the past.  Sometimes the ex may represent all past relationships, or the concept of “romantic love” or “The Relationship” - this is more likely if this was your first partner and they made a significant impression on you, or you were with them for a long time, and this person came to represent what it meant to be with someone.  When we leave a part of our life behind, our subconscious needs to spend a bit of time reconciling our decisions and feelings, sorting out our emotions from logic, and in this way, help us to learn the profound lessons that came from any relationship and any major life change, and also to ensure we are primed and ready for the next person when they come along.  If they have already come along, these dreams of an ex may be our subconscious revisiting the mistakes of the past to ensure they don’t happen again, or in a more positive frame, making sure we have learnt all the right lessons to make sure this relationship has the best chance of success. 

Image from Lin on Flickr