The Ex-Files -or- The Divorce Culture

Ellaine, 27

Recurring Dream.  I have been having this same type of dream for about 2 months now, EVERY night. In each dream I am running, I'm younger and I'm looking for my ex-husband.  In each dream, there is an element of water (a pond, raining, a puddle, etc...).  I don't seem to be worried or anxious just running, sometimes driving to find him. I always find him before I wake up.  When I find him though that's what changes in each dream. Sometimes we hug, sometimes he's happy to see me.  Other times he's not happy to see me, and yet I'm trying to make him happy and comfort him.  My last dream when I found him, he fell down and all his friends watched and did nothing.  I tried to help him and he took off his wedding ring and threw it at me. Now in real life him and I became friends again after the divorce realizing we were just too young to be married.  I don't understand why I keep having this dream and what it means. Please help if you can.

Rebecca, 37

I don't remember everything about the dream.  I was talking, laughing with my ex-husband. Don't know about what.  Then he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek while holding my arm. I felt a little shocked, yet it felt natural....comfortable... like old times I guess. We divorced due to his cheating, don't talk much anymore except about things having to do with our 3 kids. He is remarried and has another family now. I live alone with my kids, I've been dating someone for 5 months now.

Judy, 31

I've been having recurring dreams about an ex-boyfriend of mine fairly regularly over the past six years since he and I broke up. 

Allan, 27

I was laying down with my ex-girlfriend (whom i still love) and we started kissing (i have dreamed about her before but never kissed). It was very passionate and loving.

Mr Hagen's Reply: The Ex Files -or- The Anatomy of Divorce

When reading some of the dreams sent to the International Institute for Dream Research (IIDR) database, it was striking to see the number of dreams that contained the theme of divorce and separation. The four dreams above are a sample of this dream thematic, which I have called the Ex-files.

In gestalt psychology, there is a concept termed "unfinished business", this concept can be applied to dreams and dream work. In this sense, many relationships have not found closure in the present and therefore some people continue to dream about relationships that have not been emotionally resolved. People carry this emotional baggage with them everyday.

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead The Divorce Culture believes that; "DIVORCE IS NOW PART of everyday American Life. Whitehead points out that there has been a the lack of attention to the problem of divorce. American politicians both left and right, were paying attention to such family related matters as abortion, homosexuality, domestic violence and economic security. This inattention/ignoring and "failure to address divorce carried a price." Divorce hurts children, this idea is found in dreams, literature, film and music. The dreams "Autopsy of a Marriage", "Anatomy of Disgust", and "Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold", sent to the IIDR attests to the problems of divorce and separation. The films "Kramer vs Kramer" and "Mrs Doubtfire" provide insight into the problems of divorce. From a popular music perpective Tammy Wynette's version of D.I.V.O.R.C.E. provides the sentiment. From a more recent music perspective Carrie Underwood's Before He Cheats also seems to capture the sentiment of many dreams sent to the IIDR.

A number of years back, I happened to be in Court (on behalf of someone else) and was listening to a custody and access case. The testimony provided a story that showed, that the father who had custody of the children would start a fight with the mother every time she wanted to pick up the kids for her access. He then proceeded to deny her the access. The judge (who happened to be a woman) told the ex-husband, that he was to "bite his tongue, until it bleeds", each time the mother was to pick the children up. Otherwise, the judge stated; she "would hold him in contempt of Court."

I cannot provide a prescription (read cure) for divorce. However, I can point out that if children are involved, that the parents need to think about what is in the best interest of the children first. In the book Can Love Last? by Stephen A. Mitchell we sense the difficulties that partners have in maintaining "romantic love". Erich Fromm Art of Loving believes that when love is degraded, it has a destructive effect on personalities, marriages and intimacy. Infidelity is often the cause of divorce, although it is not the only one. We all know people and children that have been affected by divorce. Returning to the idea of unfinished business in one's dreams, it is easy to understand that there is a collective psychological cost and burden, that the problem of separation and divorce brings with it.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.