Do you wonder about yourself in terms of the following questions? Do you wonder about how your partner answers these questions?
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Get the Love Demystified Workbook in paperback https://amzn.to/2lQT2BT or as an ebook (click Shop tab on this site)
Spoiler alert: It doesn’t always mean you want them back.
AUG 13, 2019
Dreaming about your ex is extremely inconvenient—I don’t need to tell you that. I mean, you’ve done the hard work of crying all the tears, ridding your home of all things related to the relationship, getting past the drunk-texting stage, and moving on, and yet their stupid face creeps up in your dreams. The nerve of them.
First off, you should find comfort in the fact that, as annoying as it may be, dreaming about a former lover is not all bad. The same way that freaky dream about losing your teeth is a sign that you’re more stressed about a major life change than you’d like to admit, or dream-cheating on your S.O. means your current relationship might be in need of some TLC, dreams about your ex can give you really helpful intel into your real life.
Having an old flame guest star in your nighttime fantasies (or, uh, nightmares) is actually a reminder from your subconscious about general feelings you’ve shoved into the junk drawers of your mind and should consider revisiting.
“An ex shows up in your dreams ‘because of unfinished business.'”
Generally speaking, an ex shows up in your dreams “because of unfinished business,” says Beverly Palmer, PhD, clinical psychologist, professor emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and author of Love Demystified.
And no—before you panic—those feelings aren’t necessarily about wanting your ex back, or tied to a sign that you belong with this person (fact: you most likely don’t), says Marion Rudin Frank, EdD, a psychologist specializing in dream analysis and relationships in Philadelphia. In fact, those feelings are actually probably not about your ex at all.
So what are they about? Well, this is where things get a little tricky. Frank notes that dreams are super personal for everyone (even the weather in your dreams is symbolic and specific to you!), so she can’t offer too many generalizations about what these dreams mean (unless you were to sit down with her or a similar expert one-on-one…which I highly recommend).
But the biggest takeaway is this: Dreams are NEVER random. Every single one is a consolidation of what you’ve dealt with while awake and, for that reason, has tons of meaning, she says. (Fun fact: You have about six dreams per night, so gear up for a lot of deciphering).
Here are the most common reasons you might be dreaming about your ex:
If you dream about straight-up missing your ex, it mean that you’re feeling a void in your life, says Frank, such as intimacy from a parent or a solid group of friends like the ones you had before you moved cities.
If you dream about fighting with your ex, you’re likely wrestling with something with your current partner that needs to be addressed, such as guilt about a lie you told them.
All it takes, says Frank, is a whiff of perfume or having to deal with someone in your waking life in a way that’s even loosely related to your ex for them to make an appearance in your dream world. Though, they might not have done much in the dream itself, something you encountered during the day was enough to unlock a dormant memory of them that manifested itself as you slept.
If your ex is intruding in your dreams, it may be because there are parts of yourself that you have trouble appreciating but your ex thought were beautiful, says Frank. Your ex’s presence is your mind’s way of telling you to show yourself a little more love.
You probably associate negative feelings with your ex, Frank says.
Say your coworker takes credit for your work on a project, for example. Though you brushed it off in the moment, you might dream about your ex because they’re your subconscious’ best representation of those feelings of betrayal. So, dreaming about your ex could have been your mind’s way of reconciling with those feelings you’d pushed aside earlier that day.
Remember when the pros said dreams about your ex aren’t always about wanting to get back together? Well, sorry to break it to you, but that means those dreams—particularly ones where you reconcile—can sometimes be messages from deep within you about missing your ex or wishing your current partner were more like them.
Plus, if your past relationship ended on good terms (lucky you), it’s not so unlikely that you’ll be easily reminded of them from time to time.
If you dream about hooking up or having sex with your ex, you might be needing more intimate connections in your life, according to Frank. And it doesn’t necessarily mean more intimacy from your current partner—you might need it emotionally from your family or your friends.
Did you dream that you and your ex had babies? Don’t fret: Children represent creativity and the growth of ideas, says to Gary Toub, PhD, former director of training at the C.G. Jung Institute of Colorado, who specializes in Jungian analyses, dreams, and fantasies.
That means that you might have dreamt about co-parenting with your ex merely because you’re excited about a project you just pitched at work, or because of some other cool creative endeavor.
Perhaps you dreamt that your ex apologized to you in your dream. First of all, finally. Second of all, Toub says there’s a good chance the dream means that you’re moving past something that hurt you. Oh, thank g-d.
Hoping to stay friends your ex? These celebs figured out how—maybe you can, too:
If you dreamt that you’re living with your ex, get this: It’s a really common dream, says Toub, but it’s also one of the most personal.
Overall, this particular ex dream means that whatever your former beau represents for you (safety, hurt, sadness, fear, warmth) is still alive in you. So, if you’re dreaming about shacking up, it’s probably because one of those emotions was triggered some time before you went to sleep.
Did you relive your breakup by having a dream about breaking up? This could actually be a really great thing: that you’re breaking up with the part of yourself that your subconscious mind associates with your old flame.
Especially if your former partner hurt you, this could be symbolic of your progress—the process of separating yourself from the part of you that was injured by your ex and getting your agency back.
Gotcha, so what do I do now?
Dreams about your ex (as unwelcome as they might be) can mean a billion different things, so whatever you do, don’t write them off, Frank urges. They’re an opportunity to learn about yourself, about your current relationship, and grow.
Dreams about your ex are an opportunity to learn about yourself and grow.
What should you do? She suggests writing down everything you remember about your dream(s) as soon as you wake up, and, if you’re able to, running it by a psychologist who can decode what your psyche is trying to communicate from those hard-to-reach parts of your mind.
It could be that you haven’t completely moved on from that relationship—and there’s no one better than a therapist to help you sort through those feelings, and if/when you’re ready, give you the tools and support you need to charge forward.
Now, whether you sorta hate your ex or will always love them, who woulda thought those annoying dreams would have turned out to be worth it after all?
ARYELLE SICLAIT Assistant Editor
Show me, don’t tell me.
JUL 26, 2019
If you want to know why you do the things you do, you might look to your zodiac sign. For intel about your social tendencies, maybe your Myers-Briggs personality. But for understanding what makes you feel special in a relationship? Well, that’s one for love languages.
If you’ve read up on anything related to relationships and romance, like, ever, there’s a good chance you’ve come across Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages at some point in your research (or, okay, at girls night).
A quick rundown: If compliments make you melt, your love language is probably Words of Affirmation. If you thrive on the thoughtfulness behind a present, Receiving Gifts is yours. Look forward to dinners for two all weeklong? That’s Quality Time. And if you’re all about holding hands or you feel most connected during sex, you speak the language of Physical Touch.
The language that tends to get a bad rap (aside from Receiving Gifts, which isn’t about materialism, btw), however, is Acts of Service. It describes people whose hearts swell at the thought of coming home to dinner on the table with the promise of an empty sink or a foot rub for dessert. If this sounds like you, you feel most loved when people do things for you, not just with you or to you.
But here’s the thing: The Acts of Service language doesn’t make you a high-maintenance or lazy nag. All it means is that, for you, actions truly speak louder than words.
Okay, tell me more—what does ‘Acts of Service’ say about me?
At its core, this language is about demonstrations of love.
Since saying “I love you” doesn’t actually guarantee that the speaker means it, some people respond better to seeing someone show their feelings, says Beverly Palmer, PhD, clinical psychologist, professor emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and author of Love Demystified.
That’s exactly what makes you respond to this language: If someone can recognize all that you do on your own and wants to step in to help make your life a little easier, that, to you, is real love.
Their actions are actually less about the deed itself and more about showing you that they are on your team.
If your partner goes out of their way to pick your sister up from the airport, or call the realtor so you don’t have to, you hear “I care about you enough to sacrifice my own time for your benefit.” And that’s not something you find every day.
Is Acts of Service ever a bad thing?
Okay, brace yourself: Acts of Service can be a little problematic if you’re not super self-aware.
While every relationship should be about balance, where both partners get their needs equally met, having this particular love language could make you more susceptible to letting expectations get in the way of an otherwise happy and healthy situation. In other words, if you think your partner should be doing X or Y for you, rather than letting them choose how to show their support, you could self-sabotage your bond.
“Unbalanced relationships where one person expects too much and thinks their partner must meet those expectations to prove that they love them” is when things get tricky, Palmer says. No one wants a relationship that comes with a list of chores.
Think about it: At work, you’d be put off by a new employee who feels like they’re entitled to certain things before they’ve even shown their commitment to the company. Similarly, your partner should feel like their demonstrations of love are reciprocated and their choice, at their will—not your demand.
Want a stronger relationship? Steal this couple’s secrets:
Gotcha. So if this is my love language, how do I make a relationship work?
Communication, communication, oh, and um, some more communication.
When acts of service are involved, there’s no room for assumptions, says Palmer. Assuming your S.O. knows which acts of service you value most and expecting them to perform them at all is a surefire way to make your partner feel taken advantage of.
So here’s how to be straightforward without demanding anything in return:
If you have a hard time expressing your needs, talking to a therapist can help you feel more comfortable. Either way, if you prefer to be more subtle, try telling your partner about a time a friend or family member did something for you that meant a lot to you, suggests Palmer.
So to ensure they never feel taken for granted, after you talk through which acts of service are major for you, keep an eye out for when they actually do them (or something similar). Say: “Hey, I noticed you picked up the dry-cleaning today while I was stuck at work. I’m going to need those pants this week, so thank you so much for doing that.”
Once you figure it out, keep that intel top of mind and create opportunities to speak their language (surprise them with a massage, bring home their favorite cookie…you get the idea). Otherwise, you’ll find these acts of service you crave become less and less frequent when your S.O. isn’t feeling the love from you.
Bottom line: The Acts of Service love language is just as legit as all the others. Don’t let anyone (including yourself) shame you for it.
As long as you’re offering your partner the biggest service of all—speaking their love language in return—go on and enjoy that empty dishwasher, guilt-free.
ARYELLE SICLAIT Assistant EditorAryelle Siclait is an assistant editor at Women’s Health.
You meet someone on line. Then you text. Then you meet for coffee. But why do so many of these possible lovers turn into duds?
Maybe it is because what is presented online is not who the person really is. Or maybe it is because spending so much time with people online leaves no time to build relationship skills.
So, what should you look for offline in a possible partner? And how do you best present yourself offline?
To find the partner you really want, make a list of the qualities of that person that you feel are important for a good relationship. Then prioritize these qualities. The first three priorities will then become what you will look for in online descriptions and what you will try to ascertain during your first offline visit. If one or more of your first three priorities are not listed in that person’s online description, move on. A person who really has those qualities will list them rather than just presenting superficial desirable qualities.
Or, if it seems that none of the online descriptions contains your priorities, you need to move offline. Offline places to meet possible partners are: meetup groups (meetup.com), volunteering sites, universities.
Now you are having that first meeting with a potential partner. How do you present yourself? Do you have the relationship skills to succeed?
Everyone wants someone who is a good listener. Instead of focusing on the anxiety you feel about this first meeting, focus on the other person. Listen to what that person is saying and show you listened by repeating back a snippet of what was said. All you really need to do during the first meeting is listen because listening is the number one relationship skill.
You might also want to assess how good of a listener the other person is. Since two people showing they are really listening to each other could be the start of a loving relationship.
(To find out more ways to meet a potential partner read Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life by Beverly B. Palmer, Ph.D.)
“What the world needs now is love …. Not just for some, but for everyone.”
Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote that song in 1965, when the United States was involved in the Vietnam War. Are we at war again now, 53 years later, not overseas, but at home?
Well, we do have a war of words and actions directed at demolishing others. Oh, “others”? Even characterizing another person as “the other” creates division. It becomes all too easy to become divided into camps of “us versus them”. So, let’s try again…we have a war of words and actions that obscures our common humanity.
When our primary source of news switched from newspapers to social media, we entered a “post-truth world” in which people read, listen, and watch what they agree with, not what challenges their preconceptions. Isolation from different points of view, different values, different customs all entrenches us in our preconceptions.
Most of our preconceptions are based on gaining or maintaining power over another group of people. For example, if we read on our social media sites that blue people who come to the United States are free-loaders we will probably not be exposed to news about the blue people who contribute to our society. We then can maintain our previous prejudice and see “them” as not as good as “us”. Furthermore, if we exclude blue people from our social groups, we can associate only with people with the same belief, thereby solidifying our belief.
What, then, might heal these divisions and antipathies?
Love is what the world needs now. But can we love someone who thinks differently, acts differently, and looks different? There is a way to do this and it is called “empathy”.
To have empathy for another person means setting aside our evaluations of that person. Then we actively listen to the other person’s thoughts and feelings and acknowledge we heard them.1 This doesn’t mean we agree with the other person, just that we understand where that person is coming from and tell that person that we do.
When we are viewing another person with empathy, we have momentarily let go of our defenses. And when we acknowledge the other person’s thoughts and feelings it disarms him/her. Defenses are not needed by either party, so better communication and cooperation can emerge.
A loving empathy has been used even to defuse conflict between groups of people.2 The surprising fact is that both parties do not have to show empathy initially. It only takes one person or group to start the process of empathetic communication. And then empathy begets empathy.3
Through empathy, then, we have the power to connect with others at a level that is deeper than attitudes and beliefs. When we truly listen to the other person, we see the other person’s humanity beyond our previous preconceptions. No longer is there a power struggle of us versus them. There are just two human beings willing to listen to each other, heart to heart, without judgment. Then we can connect through acknowledging our common human needs, feelings, and fears.
The empathetic approach to relationships is backed by evidence that it works—it works to neutralize power differences and tensions.4 Empathy is a viable alternative to our present way of seizing and using power. It is a quiet revolution.5
(Notice how old the references below are and, yet, we still have not implemented them throughout our society.)
Our nation is increasingly becoming divided into opposing groups. Yes, most of us have a tendency to feel most comfortable when we associate with people who look or think like ourselves. People who look or think differently than we do, make us uncomfortable. So, we stay away from them and isolate ourselves even further with our own kind.
Our isolation from others is intensified as we subscribe to popular media which confirms our point of view. People outside our group may have a different point of view but we are not exposed to it. Then we begin surmising what other people think. People who dress like Muslims might think like or (gasp) be terrorists. People who are trying to emigrate to the United States might think they can be freeloaders. These stereotypes all come from seeing people outside our group as a threat, which popular media perpetuates.
It is the way we see people not like us that creates fear and hate—not the actual reality. Yes, some people from our group as well as some people outside our group are terrorists and freeloaders, but most people are not. Yet we continue to have a perception of people not like us as a threat.
To change our perception, we must be exposed to people not like us in positive contexts. One way to develop positive images is through travel where we interact with others—this could be travel within or outside the United States. Another way is to view positive images and stories about people from groups other than our own in popular media (social media, television, magazines, newspapers), schools, churches, even stores.
We need to reach out and speak to people other than those in our own group. But, most of all, we need to listen to them.
Does the upcoming Valentine’s Day make you wish you had someone to love (and to love you)? Do you miss a loved one? Or do you just feel lonely?
Don’t despair—there are ways to feel less lonely during all the Valentine’s Day hype.
Perhaps you have tried interacting with others on your smartphone or even with an online group. But recent studies have shown that we become even lonelier during screen time because it does not provide the meaningful, deep connection with others that we long for.
To dispel loneliness get out of your house and get involved with an activity you like. Besides having an enjoyable time, you might even find a new acquaintance, friend, lover. Don’t wait for someone to find you—smile and start talking with someone nearby while engaged in the following activities.
Think about who you would get the most satisfaction from helping. Would it be children, teenagers, adults in special circumstances, senior citizens? Then do an online search for where you might be most needed. The search terms would be the name of your city and the word, “volunteer”. Or, you can make the search more specific, by adding the name of the group you would like to help (e.g. homeless, migrants, special needs, hospitalized). VolunteerMatch.com and CreateTheGood.com are two sites that list volunteer opportunities in your local community. Not only would you be making a positive change in your community, you would be meeting people who are also volunteering.
Foster or Adopt a Pet
You may find a loving pet to be a loving companion. A cat can give you warm, soft comfort as it curls up on your lap. A dog might even get you out of your house on a daily basis, where you might meet some of your neighbors. Or you and your dog might meet other doggie lovers at a doggie park. Contact your local pet adoption group to foster or adopt a pet.
Join a Special Interest Group
If you have a hobby or special area of interest, you could join a group of people who share that interest. Every city has an abundance of special interest groups. Find one at meetup.com. Some of the meetups in your city involve hiking, cooking, developing a new skill, discussing a topic, and participating in a sport.
Sign up for a Course or a Fitness Center’s Program
If you have a regularly scheduled event where you are with other people, you already have a way not to be lonely during the upcoming Valentine’s Day. Find classes at your local adult schools or universities that might interest you. Join a fitness center. And don’t forget to reach out to others by maybe asking for help with something.
Read a Good Book
Visit your local library or bookstore. Selecting a book from browsing the shelves will give you an opportunity to interact with others before going home to read that book. Escape to another world through an engrossing fiction book. Learn something new through a helpful nonfiction book. One nonfiction book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life, will give you even more suggestions on how to dispel the Valentine’s Day blues.
As the 1965 song reminds us, “what the world needs now is love…not just for some but for everyone.”
The challenge today is to ask ourselves, “Can we show love towards everyone?”
Can you love someone who has beliefs very different from yours, someone who has hurt you, someone who is a stranger? Wholeheartedly answering “yes” is difficult because love seems to be restricted to close relationships. Indeed, we expect romantic partners and family members to love each other. But loving a stranger—that isn’t love.
Is it possible to love someone who is very different from you? Oops, maybe we shouldn’t have put that person into the box of “different”. Even seeing someone as different, and judging that person as “the other” has already put a limit on your ability to love. For loving another means identifying commonalities and recognizing our common humanity. Someone may look, think, or act differently than you do but that person’s feelings are no different from your own. So, a connection can be built by recognizing the feelings that are behind the thoughts and actions. A loving response then lets the other person know you recognize these feelings.
Love that goes beyond close relations to strangers and even to all of humanity means responding with understanding rather than judgment. Seeing another person through your eyes often involves judging that person. Seeing another person through their eyes leads to understanding that person. You begin to feel what the other person is feeling, to have empathy and to tell that person what you are experiencing when you are seeing through their eyes. An empathetic connection is the essence of love and it can be created with anyone.
Let us choose love over fear.
“I want us to be more intimate,“ she says. “Intimate,” he thinks, “that must mean she wants more sex.”
Men and women often mean very different things when they think about intimacy. Women often are asking for more emotional closeness when they ask for more intimacy. Men, on the other hand, sometimes confuse sexual and emotional closeness. Some men might even admit that they have no clue what a woman is asking for when she asks for more intimacy. And some men and women can use sexual intimacy as a substitute for emotional closeness.
What, then, is intimacy?
Intimacy is the ability to engage in close and reciprocal relationships, to engage in cooperative behavior for mutual benefit, and to flexibly respond to the range of others’ ideas, emotions, and behaviors. Engaging in cooperative behavior for mutual benefit is a good description of sexual intimacy as well as emotional intimacy.
Intimacy strengthens close relationships and fosters mutual growth. Intimacy is needed even in platonic relationships because it promotes positive interactions in dyads and teams working towards a mutual goal.
What interferes with creating intimacy?
Intimacy involves giving and receiving understanding and support. Some people tend to receive but not give. What can hold you back from giving fully of yourself in a relationship is a need to defend against hurt. Or you may be so judgmental and defensive that you do not respond flexibly to other’s ideas.
How does a couple create emotional intimacy?
In order to create emotional intimacy, you have to let go of your defensiveness. You need to listen to the other person with a non-judgmental ear. And you need to be willing to be non-defensively open in what you share with the other person. When you are together, talking and listening with these attitudes increases emotional intimacy.
Intimacy is an essential skill in loving relationships and Dr. Beverly Palmer shows how intimacy can be developed in her recently released book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.