What Does It Mean to Cheat in a Dream?
5 min read
Last Modified 19 December 2022 First Added 4 October 2021
It’s been a long day. As the clock hits five, you grab your things and head for the door.
You decide to grab a coffee before heading to catch the train. As you pass a restaurant you catch a glimpse of a familiar face that stops you in your tracks. Excited at first, you feel yourself begin to smile as you recognise your partner – until you realise that you don’t know who they’re with, or why they’re holding hands.
Your heart sinks as you approach the window and they notice you – but rather than exhibiting signs of guilt or shame, they kiss.
Still, it’s only a dream – right?
Dream analysis is more of an art than a science, and the meanings of dreams vary culturally, historically and according to which practitioner is making the analysis. In terms of infidelity, interpretations rely hugely on the individual’s unique circumstances.
While dreams of cheating on a partner can, of course, indicate anxiety or unhappiness with a relationship, from a Jungian perspective such a dream could equally be a warning from the unconscious mind that the anima and animus (female and male) aspects of the psyche are unbalanced.
In fact, there’s more to learn from the identity of the partner in dreams of infidelity than in the act of cheating itself. Our dreaming minds are in the act of organising information. They run threat simulation and organise or store our memories. This can spill into our dreams in a host of different ways.
Articles on dream analysis tend to personify the unconscious or subconscious. It’s easy to deny that our psyche has individual desires, or wishes to communicate something to our waking selves, but it’s absolutely possible that the brain conjures up such imagery because of unrecognised needs or concerns – and it’s possible for a rational individual to consider their dreams without indulging in magical thinking.
For example, dreams in which you’re cheating on your partner may contain context clues. How is the person dressed? What is the location? What is the power dynamic involved? Dreams of infidelity can represent an unacknowledged fear that you are neglecting your relationship in favour of financial, or business concerns, and the same is true vice versa – being cheated on by a partner can indicate a feeling of neglect by your partner as they focus more on other aspects of life.
Another common cheating dream involves an individual or a partner being unfaithful with an ex. Again, this can operate on both a surface level or deeper, and it’s only through reflection that a person can be sure. What does that ex represent to you? Was your relationship with them more spontaneous? Did you share a sense of humour? Or have they moved on to a marriage and family? Their presence in your dreams is almost always more about you than them. What do they represent that your unconscious self may feel is lacking?
From cheating with a stranger, a celebrity, an ex or a friend, dreams of cheating on your partner are more common than you may first realise! Here, we explore some of the meanings behind the specific variations:
As with any dream, your response will depend on the insights you reach during reflection. However, there is a seam of meaning that runs through all dreams of infidelity – and that’s an unsatisfied desire in your life. Whether that’s sexual in nature doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re able to acknowledge the desire it represents and communicate with your partner to overcome the anxiety it’s causing you.
The dream of cheating has appeared throughout history. A fabricated dream of infidelity helps Iago to convince Othello that Desdemona has been unfaithful with Cassio, while the ubiquity of the dream can be seen in Rachel’s response to Phoebe’s dream in an episode of Friends. Rachel, it turns out, is a real dream enthusiast! Check out the video below for a little trip down memory lane.