Dream Theme: I Cheated on My Partner

A common dream theme appeared last week on my Open Your Heart forum: cheating on one’s partner. The course participant wrote:

I never remember dreams but just had one last night where I cheated on my bf with a guy I used to date and had no feelings for. In the dream I felt really bad and told my best friend I wasn’t going to tell him that I cheated because it meant nothing and didn’t want to hurt him. She told me that was really dishonest and I was wrestling with that. I am wondering now if this means I feel guilty that I am having all this anxiety and doubting the relationship and he thinks everything is fine because I act really loving towards him, tell him I love him (and I do!). But the fact that he has no idea I’m struggling with this makes me feel like I’m hiding this big secret. I’ve told my ex-bf’s though about the anxiety and it caused a ton of problems and led to breakups so I don’t want to tell him unless it’s aboslutely necessary/relationship ending.

When she Googled the dream theme she found the following interpretation: “Cheating means you’re betraying yourself in some way.”

Let’s just pause for a moment to review the Conscious Transitions unofficial rule number one: NO GOOGLING! It doesn’t matter if you’re suffering from relationship anxiety, health anxiety, or any other kind of anxiety, as soon as you hand your fear over to Dr. Google you’re opening yourself up to the almost guaranteed possibility that you will increase your fear tenfold. The fear-mind looks for evidence to support its argument, so even if 99% of what you read sounds calming and reassuring, your anxious brain will find the one tiny footnote of information that will send you into an anxious tailspin. It’s not even what Google presents as much as where our minds go with it that’s the problem. And if we don’t have someone to guide us out the rabbit hole, it’s too easy to become stuck there.

Luckily, this member and I happened to have a coaching session already scheduled for the following day so we were able to dissect the dream and her response before the anxiety festered too deeply. With her permission, I’m sharing an excerpt of the session here (Keep in mind that her main anxiety hook is “he’s wrong for me”):

Client: When I read the Google interpretation I immediately understood that it meant that I’m betraying myself by staying in this relationship when I know it’s wrong for me.

Me: What could another interpretation be? How else might you be betraying yourself?

She took a moment to think about it. We fall so quickly into fear’s trap that it can take a few breaths – or longer – to pull ourselves out long enough to access a wise, clear part of ourselves.

Client: I guess I could be betraying myself by believing the spike.

Me: Right. Good. So let’s sit with each of those interpretations and see where they land in your body. First interpretation: I’m betraying myself by not being honest with myself that I’m in the wrong relationship. Where do you feel that when I say it?

Client: I feel it in my gut, which is where I always feel fear. It’s like a pang.

Me: Now the second interpretation: Every time I believe the intrusive thought, I’m betraying myself and denying myself the possibility of having a loving relationship.

Client: When you say that it lands in my chest. In my heart. I feel an opening inside of me. It’s not a huge opening because I’m been fused with the fear response for so long, but it’s an opening.

She paused for a moment. It was one of those rich pauses in a session when the chatter of the anxious mind quiets down and the silence that dwells in the heart makes an appearance. Then she said, “I’m not letting myself have the love I deserve.”

Yes.

This is how we grow our inner loving parent: we take the time to self-reflect and consider how different statements land in our bodies. This is how we pull back the projection of believing that the problem is our choice of partner and instead explore the root causes of anxiety, one of  which, for this client, is the belief that she’s not worthy of love. Once we broke through the projection, other spokes of her intrusive thought wheel – with “he’s wrong for me” in the center –  came tumbling out of her; once the projection balloon pops we see clearly what was living in the center. This is how we dissect relationship anxiety spikes and heal from the inside out. This is how we grow our voice of clarity, compassion and wisdom. This is how we learn to take responsibility for our well-being and engage in a healing process that serves us for the rest of our lives. This is how relationship anxiety, and all forms of anxiety, when approached with consciousness becomes a gift. As the client said at the end of the session, “I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty self-aware person, but there have been entire parts of myself that I’ve had no idea how to handle. I’ve learned and grown so much from doing this work.”

25 comments to Dream Theme: I Cheated on My Partner

  • Emmy

    Your course and your blogs have been nothing but such an incredible blessing for me. Like many people who passionately dive into your work, I am with the most loving, compassionate, empathic, kind man. He’s incredible, and even supports me through all my dark nights without an ounce of hesitation. I wanted to ask you about if the dreams relate to having a real life experience. I find when I’m in the depths of anxiety, I fear that I will develop feelings for/ fall for another person. For example, a year ago at work there was a kind gentleman I worked with and because I was nice to him and we formed a friendship I started to think I was going to cheat or leave my boyfriend for this other guy. Though I know so deep down I just wouldn’t possibly do that/ want to marry my loving boyfriend one day.. The feelings took over me and swirled me into a deeper depth of anxiety. During that time we decided to move in together, I graduated university, and I was also starting my career. I truly believe that those intrusive thoughts were an escape from my grief and dealing with the transition, but there is still a part of me that feels so much guilt. Which part of the course do you recommend I focus on for the guilt aspect? I have come so far, learned so much, have had so many more clear and beautiful moments, but I just feel this one event keeps eating away at me. The shame and guilt I feel is what holds me back from breaking free.i want to learn to release myself from the past and be okay with my ups and downs.. but am having a hard time with it.

    • Shame and guilt are also ways that we prevent ourselves from being present and accepting love. If you were to approach the part of you that is holding on to the shame-identity with a loving, clear, and wise part of you, what would you say?

      • Emmy

        Thanks for replying Sheryl. I believe I would say that transitioning from one part of my life to another was in full force at that moment. I was not feeling the joy and happiness our culture expects us to feel during a transition of graduating, moving in, starting a new job. I didn’t allow myself to grieve the old life. I put those emotions aside and projected my anxiety onto the belief that I will be unfaithful to my loving partner. I also need to grieve the fantasy version of love. Come to understand love. All in all I would tell myself that shame and guilt are non loving acts towards myself, and understand that transitions are hard and bring up projections of unresolved grief from within.

  • Ashley

    Wow, how powerful. I need to keep this in mind for when I have my bouts of anxiety. Thank you Sheryl, your words are always such a gift.

  • Chrisdy

    Hello. First of all I want you to know that your work is so amazing that it has gotten me through a lot even your courses. Off of this topic, I was wondering if you will cover any topics related to how our happiness should be independent of our husband. Meaning how I can find my own happiness than relying on my husband to help me reach my happiness. Before I was married I was always shooting for the Stars in every way posdible, but unfortunately this always made me egotistical and have high expectations in life and in my partner. Since I got married I haven’t even been shooting for the Moon, let alone the stars, due to fear that my ego will come back again and it will overshadow my husband and make me gain higher expectations of our relationship and potentially lose respect and want more (superficially) out of our relationship and feel like my husband is not enough. Because of this fear I’m holding myself back a lot and I don’t feel like my self-esteem is as high as it was before I was married. I feel like I’m too dependent on my husband for me to feel good about myself and go where I want to go in life. I want to add that my husband is amazing all-around. Can you cover this in some way? Is this a common problem?

    • Any of my articles on filling the well of Self speak to this question. If you Google “conscious-transition.com + well of Self” they should show up.

    • Aino

      Hi Chrisdy, I can very much relate to your comment, thank you for bringing this up! I am very dependent of my husband (although at the same time I’m quite independent and enjoy being alone), because for some reason I can’t bear the thought that I could be happy “without him”, even for a short while, like when I am having lunch with my friends etc. I usually start comparing whether I’m having more fun with them than my partner and so on and so on. I also have very hard time for example succeeding in my job, because a big part of me has this (irrational) fear that somehow it will tear me and my husband apart. That somehow I will overgrow my husband and find someone “better”. At worst times these intrusive thoughts prevent me from reading books, because that is something which is more my hobby than his and I get worried that my husband wouldn’t understand or “get” the books the same way as I do (one of my main instrusive thoughts is “he’s not intellectual enough”…) So I also feel like I am holding myself back a lot, which is really stupid since my husband is very supportive and independent man and always encourages me to find my own passion and my own thing. I would love to hear Sheryl’s (and everyone else’s) insights about this. 🙂

  • Kim

    Hi Sheryl,

    As always, you post just what I need to hear. I’ve not allowed myself to be open about what the thoughts might mean because I’ve been so scared that they would show me I don’t love my partner (I’ve been doing this course for nearly a year and have come through many layers, and although I know that this is a common fear, it’s become more intense the closer I’ve got to my core). I get the same pain in my chest when having thoughts about others that I was ashamed of. Hopefully reading this will give me little extra courage to be honest with myself and to allow my feelings to be expressed. Thank you.

  • Heikki

    Had she felt the first interpretation in her chest/heart, would that have pointed to the direction that the relationship truly was potentially wrong for her? Asking since I’m having a hard time placing these feelings I get from different statements. Sometimes I feel the relationship being wrong – interpretation does land in my chest/heart region. At times I wonder if my fear is making me think that is the case or pushing me to make that conclusion

    • You’re asking a great question and I’m sure one that many others might have after reading this article. What I’m talking about here is learning to understand and trust your body-wisdom, which is skill that takes a lot of time and sometimes is best done with a skilled other (therapist). Fear can so easily mask as truth, especially when we’re talking about relationship anxiety. But what I’ve found is that most people, with some help, can access their body-wisdom, and when it comes to relationship anxiety the body wisdom almost always says, “I don’t want to leave.” If you wanted to leave, you probably wouldn’t be reading my work ;).

  • Lisa

    Sheryl, I’m not one that uses Dr. Google because I know the fear that it can create. However, the ONE time that I did use it was when I was feeling anxiety in a relationship. I was just starting to put the pieces together in my mind that it wasn’t the other person causing it this time, it was something inside of me that needed attention. I actually came across your work and it’s been a life changer for me! The relationship didn’t work out for other reasons but by taking some of your classes and reading your blogs I have discovered a significant reduction in the amount of intrusive thoughts leading to my anxious and depressed feelings. Dr. Google came through for me that time, an exception to your rule. 😉

  • Brooke

    Recently I have been spiked by comments I read in marriage books or blogs. I am new to marriage and went through a ROUGH engagement due to anxiety and doubts which this work helped me through. In biblical based books I have seen “those who lived together before marriage have a higher divorce rate”. This spiked my anxiety HIGHLY. My inner loving self says that your past does not determine your future path or who you are (even biblically based that is true). I guess my anxiety is spiked due to an underlying fear of loss. Fear of divorce and fear of losing my husband who I love so dearly!

    I have to remind myself not to dig into the “whys” of what I went though during the engagement because I am only looking for another thing for anxiety to hang its hat on.
    Does anyone else have experience with coming to the other side of the engagement and struggling with recovery and coming to terms with what occurred within the storm of your doubt and anxiety?!

    • Carlie

      Brooke, I absolutely feel you. My engagement brought a lot up and I experienced way more anxiety and fear than I ever would have imagined. It also showed me how easy it is for my mind to irrationally obsesses or ruminate on things it doesn’t need to. Or to focus more on what I don’t want than what I do want. It got pretty bad the last couple months leading into our wedding, but the strange and beautiful part is it still never prevented me from wanting to marry my husband. He has been so incredible during all of this. I have found moments of guilt for what I’ve gone through, and am still working on letting go of, when I see how truly happy he is with zero resistance or fear. But I think it’s just an adjustment period. I think anxiety can really take its toll on us and that it makes sense it wouldn’t leave in a snap of our fingers, but we don’t have to hold shame for that. We have to keep focusing on the love and our deeper self that has chosen to commit and grow with this person. Hope this helps <3

  • LightAtTheEnd

    I guess a dream is a collection of thoughts. Meeting the dream at the literal level of those thoughts is a rabbit hole of intrusive thoughts that I’ve often found myself in.
    Like you mentioned in my coaching session…it’s a bit of a trap to engage in dialogue at the same level as the thoughts. Hence the need to go deeper…those thoughts are not your truth!
    Dreams are genuinely ‘spikey’! I look forward to the day you might run a dreamworks course! X

  • AJ

    Hi!
    I have a question about this blog and “feelings”. This kind of practice (which I tried with my therapist too), doesn’t really work because I literally feel nothing anywhere.
    How can I work through the problems?

    Best,
    AJ

  • Natalie

    Sheryl,
    I was making a lot of progress with my RA and then this past weekend was rough. Since then I’ve had two dreams where I have the thought “maybe deep down I don’t actually want him”. But I do!! I have been fighting through a lot of fear of the future (we have been taking engagement) and working with replacing old beliefs about love with new ones. It really scares me because in my dreams, the “maybe I don’t want him” feels so calm and dreadful. Any insight on what’s else this might be? Could it just be a product of ruminating and working through fear all day long? I struggle with being afraid to turn inward – that I’ll find my truth is that I have to leave (even though I desperately don’t want to). Thanks for your insight!

    • These are fear dreams, Natalie, and don’t represent your truth. The work is to find the courage to turn inward and trust that what you’ll find there and work with will help you move toward love, not away from it.

  • Natalie

    Thanks Sheryl – I guess what scared me was that in the dream my reaction felt so… accepting? Like I was finally admitting I didn’t really want him? It’s like this confident bully in my head, tapping on my shoulder and telling me that eventually I’ll come to terms with the fact that he’s not good enough or I don’t really want him, I’m just convincing myself I do. It’s scary because in the dream it feels so real coming right from my own self. Does that make sense?