Have you ever had an intense sex dream about someone you hate, like your egotistical boss or a rude neighbor, that left you feeling confused and strangely aroused? Or maybe you’ve had a steamy dream that features a person you used to care about, or still secretly desire? Is it a sign that you should abandon all sense of logic and loyalty to fulfill your subconscious desires, or is it a metaphor for something else, something deeper?

“Dreams are actually our subconscious thoughts,” says expert dream psychologist Lauri Loewenberg. “Instead of talking to ourselves in words, we talk in symbols, metaphors, and emotions. It’s the way we figure things out on a more profound, honest, and focused level.” While sex dreams might feel recklessly out of our control and completely unintentional, they often hint towards deeper desires and emotional needs. “It is important to know that sex in a dream is rarely about sex at all,” continues Lauri. “In most cases, sex in a dream is not about a physical union you’re seeking, but a psychological union you need or want.”

We asked Lauri to interpret a string of common sex dreams and explain what those visceral mind moments really mean.

If you’ve had a cheating dream...

“Cheating dreams are the most common of all sex dreams,” says Lauri. She believes if there is infidelity in your past, cheating dreams can reflect the guilt or distrust you once felt, and at times, they can even help you heal. “Dreams can nudge you to continue to work on these issues, rather than be complacent.” If you experience a cheating dream while you’re in a relationship, but there has been no infidelity recently or in the past, it could mean a different type of entity needs to be confronted. Lauri says: “You need to figure out what feels like the third wheel in your partnership. Usually, it’s work that is taking up too much time. It could be anything though, from golf, to fantasy football, or even a new baby.” She explains that a multitude of reasons could cause you to feel like you’re cheating on your partner or they’re cheating on you.

If you’ve dreamt of sleeping with a friend...

As obvious as it may sound, it could be that you have a crush on your friend, whether you’ve acknowledged it yet or not. However, if your union is purely platonic, the dream could signify a strengthening of friendship. “If you dream about sleeping with a friend but don’t feel sexually attracted to them, it’s probably because you just connected in a new or deep way.” Lauri thinks dreams also offer a chance for self-reflection. She asks, “If your friend has qualities that stand out, are you subconsciously trying to incorporate those into your own self too?” She believes friends who appear in dreams often represent attributes you would like to possess. For example, if a friend who speaks their mind, or one with incredible amounts of body confidence, takes the starring role in your sex dream, it could just mean you want to mirror their positive traits.

If you’ve had a kink dream...

“This dream could be a safe way for you to explore fun and new ways to enjoy sex,” says Lauri. “Dreams can sometimes serve the purpose of a dress rehearsal, allowing people to run through a possible scenario in their minds to better prepare themselves for it. Or, dreams can act as a test run so people can make better decisions about things they are curious about.” Have you been eyeing a new sex toy or fantasizing about a threesome? A dream might be encouraging you to dip a toe in the water. However, Lauri warns that kink dreams aren’t always a sign you want to experiment sexually. Some can be frustrating or even frightening. If you are submissive in the dream or it turns into a nightmare, she says: “It could be the subconscious telling you that somewhere in your life, you feel you are being restrained or dominated, or that you may be holding yourself back in some area.” If you’re dominant in the dream, that could suggest you are taking control of an area in your real life.

If your sex dream lands outside your dating comfort zone...

An erotic dream that features someone outside of your usual sexual preference can spark questions and leave you confused. For example, you might find yourself getting hot and heavy with someone of a gender you’re not typically attracted to. Lauri believes people in their “dream state” are sexually fluid. She also thinks this “labelless mind” gravitates towards traits in people, rather than actual types. Because we’ve been socialized to see women as caregivers, their presence as a sexual partner might have less to do with same-sex attraction and more to do with wanting a more thoughtful and gentle approach to intimacy. According to Lauri, “Typically – and I stress typically – a female partner would be about incorporating a more nurturing, creative or sensitive element into the story. While a male partner is often about taking on the qualities of assertiveness and strength.”

If you’ve dreamt of sleeping with an ex...

Don’t let this last one mess with your mind because it’s really, really common. “Strangely enough, people continue to dream of their first loves and old partners, even when they have moved on. It's not that you want your ex back, it's that you want what they represent: excitement, bubbles, passion.” Lauri explains that it’s likely you’ll experience these kinds of sexual narratives when a long-term relationship settles into a routine, as all partnerships do from time to time. “Your dream is using your ex to remind you of the passion that’s still alive inside of you,” explains Lauri. “Dreaming of the ex that broke your heart, or one that you really dislike, can also be a sign that you are stuck emotionally. Those visions may be an indication that you have not yet healed, in which case the dreams will continue until you let those emotions go.”

Now that you know sex dreams don’t neccessarily mean you’re desperate for a passionate tryst with your nemesis or best friend, you can start to make sense of them. “Dreaming is a thinking process – a continuation of our stream of consciousness,” ends Lauri. If you’re seeking clarity, think back to what you were thinking and feeling hours before drifting off. Your inner dialogue could hold the clues to help you unravel those hazy, horny fantasies.

Get dreamy with Dipsea! Cozy up with Nick as he tells you about his recent bondage dream. Or get intimate with Mark, as he whispers his sexy dream into your ear.

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Claire Blackmore is a freelance writer and editor focusing on women's health, beauty, fashion, travel and sex. She specializes in straight-talking body, sex education and self-care features, plus trend reports on shopping, style, skincare and wellness.