Do you ever have dreams of other men who are not your husband or significant other? I do. Almost every month. Nate knows this about me as it’s a phenomenon that has happened throughout our entire marriage and courtship. At first I would tell him, “Babe I had a bad dream.” The problem was they were bad dreams because they were actually good dreams of other men who are not my husband. I felt so bad every time it happened because it just felt wholly out of my control, and worse of all, I enjoyed having them.
Who am I dreaming about?
Some are dreams of other men, exes, strangers, random men I know or even celebrities, but the majority of the time, this man is the ex that I feel like I didn’t really have closure with. These dreams aren’t even usually sex dreams. The biggest problem I have with these dreams is that I wake up realizing in my dream I was in love with another man who is not my husband.
But my marriage is so good!
The man I married is the best man I know, Nate. He was my high school sweetheart, and I love everything about our relationship. Our sex life is amazing, we laugh a lot, and like me, he is down for anything I want to try. He loves adrenaline and adventure. I love physical activity and novelty. We both always love spending our free time outdoors. We compliment each other in many ways with our differences but both have the same values and humor. I love him, and I’m in love with him.
The only thing that I don’t love about our relationship is that it is no longer new. I love the beginnings of relationships. I love the butterflies and the heady feelings you get when things are just starting out.
A past love
You see, once upon a time I fell for a boy. I loved him for so long before I found out he felt the same way, but we only dated for a very brief time before we had to break up because I moved and our families felt it best that we separate. Those few weeks were full of every high and low a person could ever feel. My body physically ached for him when we broke up. I wouldn’t wish that kind of heartbreak on anyone.
Stuck in the beginning
The thing is, and the beauty of the whole relationship was that it was and is forever stuck in the beginning stage. We broke up so early on and not because of anything we had within the relationship. It was my unrequited love because when we broke up, neither of us was ready for it to end.
All the guilt
I used to feel so bad about having dreams of a man who is not my wonderful, beautiful soul of a husband. I didn’t think there was a solution because I have no control over my dreams, and I felt like I was a faithful loving wife while I was awake but I was cheating on my husband in my dreams! It was an awful feeling.
Is there a solution?
I felt so guilty every time it happened until I ran into a chapter in the book, “The Atlas of Happiness” by Helen Russell. One chapter really spoke to my heart about this struggle. The chapter on Brazil talks about a phrase called “saudade” which is a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia for a happiness that once was or a happiness that you merely hoped for.
Here’s an excerpt:
Saudade represents a feeling so fundamental to the human experience… because as the philosopher Kierkegaard wrote ‘there is bliss in melancholy and sadness’… Most of us will have experienced a bittersweet pleasure in moments of melancholy, reminiscing, flicking through old photographs or caring about anything or anyone enough to miss them when they are gone. The only way to avoid sadness and regret completely is by avoiding life, and we only appreciate the light if we’ve experienced the shade. This is why saudade matters.
Saudade has been described as a presence of absence, a bit like desire.
Missing a season not necessarily a person
And the thing is, I don’t even know if it’s the man I cared about enough to miss or if what I miss is really just that feeling of novelty and newness in a relationship. As much as I love the security and comfort of being in a forever relationship, the reality is that I know that I’ll never experience the newness of a relationship again, and I miss that. In the book she goes on to say,
Saudade often carries a sense that the thing that you’re often nostalgic for won’t ever happen again. As a seventh century Portuguese writer Manuel De Mello put it, Saudade is a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.
It made complete sense to me that I have these dreams regularly. I miss that something, that novelty-
It’s a longing for someone or something that you don’t have anymore that you love be it food, or weather, or a place you’ve lived, or a person.
But I did also love him
Not to discredit my relationship with this ex. He was a wonderful man, and I’m thankful he was a part of my past. I think every single person I dated helped shape me into the woman I am today. I don’t think I’d be the same person without these relationships. So Suadade really helped me come to terms with these reoccurring dreams and the what if ideas that would circle my brain after I’d have these dreams. The author talks to a Brazilian lady Danielle who explains it so well-
‘Saudade for me is the lingering memory of someone or something you’re really happy was a part of you. You may be sad that you haven’t got it, but you remember it happily because you had it once. Saudade can also describe the feeling of missing something that still exists, but that you can’t have anymore like opal fruits or the one that got away. Imagine if you ended up with your first love. Imagine a life with them. Strange isn’t it? A little like shrouding a spouse. The relationship might have worked, but then again it might have not. That heady intoxicating, all consuming lust where you ache for someone and feel like you’re falling out of a window could never have lasted, could it? If you found them again now, there might not be that same spark there once was. They might not be the same person anymore. You certainly aren’t. It might have been for the best that you lost each other when you did.’
Peace in accepting the complexity of the situation
The great thing about the idea of thinking of these dreams in terms of saudade is that I have no regrets-
There’s an ambiguity in saudade, or rather a complexity and an understanding that some losses are unavoidable and that that’s okay.
Can two loves coexist?
I can appreciate a love lost and appreciate my true love, Nate. I can mourn the loss of novelty in relationships and at the same time appreciate the steady love of a husband who greets me with a kiss every night he comes home. It’s weird that these feelings can coexist. Because I’ve experienced this loss of something, I can appreciate what I have right in front of me. Russel explains-
Saudade makes you grateful for what you’ve got and aware that it might be gone in a heartbeat.
‘Saudade makes us feel things more deeply,’ says Danielle. ‘Both the sadness and the joy. And it reminds us to celebrate what we have. So we are always ready to dance. We are always ready to love, and we are always ready to welcome loved ones.’
Thank you God for my past and my present
All this time I was feeling guilty, in actuality, I should have been feeling thankful. Even these dreams, in a strange way were and are a gift from God to a girl who loves and will always loves the beginnings of relationships but has made a long-term forever commitment to the man of her dreams. Guilt is implying that I’ve only loved and should have only loved one man in my life, but that isn’t true. The love that I felt for this ex doesn’t take away from the forever love that I have for Nate. These loves are different, and they were meant for different seasons in my life. Lastly I want to end with this beautiful passage from the book about how accepting and even embracing a bit Saudade can actually lead to much joy in the moment –
I like the idea of celebrating happiness past as well as present. Saudade feels like a love letter to loss, a necessary slackening to stay afloat and a way to acknowledge the people we care for as well as our hopes and dreams whether they had turned out the way we envisioned or not. I miss my grandfather. I miss an old friend I can never be as close to as I’d like to again. I ache for both. But I’m grateful they were in my life for the time that they were. And now I’d quite like to have a cry for them right now. And then maybe I’ll feel like dancing.
Man this was a lot to unpack! I’m curious, do you ever have dreams of an ex?
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