My fiancé and I have been dating for a year this month. I love him more than anyone, but for about five months I have been having a dream that he is having an affair with another woman. Usually it’s a different one each time and I catch them in the dream. Then I wake up crying or sometimes screaming or hitting him. Then he holds me until I go back to sleep, letting me know it was just a dream.

The latest dream I had really bothered me. See, he has a new job working offshore. He is gone for two weeks, then I see him for one, then he goes out for two more. Currently he is working and last night I woke up crying loudly and he wasn’t there to hold me. Maybe that’s why I had the dream.

My dream was this — We were staying in a motel room and he had just come in from the helicopter. We went to a bar in the motel and ordered a few drinks. Then I walk back up to the motel room for something — I forget what — and as I am walking to the room the hotel manager says to me, “I have a videotape you need to see.”

So I watched it in the motel room. It was a videotape of my fiancé and this other blonde woman. They were both naked and standing up and he was behind her playing with her breasts, which were rather large. It looked like they were covered with baby oil. So I leave and get really upset and go back to the bar and there she is — the woman in the video — talking to him. He jumps up and comes to me and stops talking to her. He sees I am upset and I start hitting him and cussing at him. Later I catch him and her in the motel room and they are having sex. I beat her up with a baseball bat, and I beat him up the same way. I then woke up screaming and crying.

I don’t know if these dreams mean I am going to catch my fiancé cheating on me or if he already has — or if it’s just a fear of mine. But I have been having them off and on for a while. It always ends the same way — with me catching them and beating up one or the both of them — because I am so angry and hurt. And then I always wake up crying and hitting my fiancé, who is lying in bed beside me sound asleep. I know he has never cheated on me. These dreams usually happen after we have really good sex. I would very much appreciate anything you can interpret from this, since this last one was really vivid and in color — and it bothered me more than the others.

–sarah, age 19, engaged, pineville, LA, USA

Hi Sarah,

We need to find a solution to your dreams fast! Otherwise your honey is going to wind up black and blue — from all the “punishments” you’ve been dishing out!

I am happy to hear you believe your fiancé is faithful to you. As for your dreams, which have brought worry to an otherwise untroubled heart, you will be comforted to learn that you are not the only partner whose territorial instincts are awakened — and who suffers infidelity dreams — when their lover leaves town “on business.”

Your dreams began five months ago. As with all recurring dreams, it is important to recall what important events were occurring at the time the dreams began. For example, if your fiancé had just started working his onshore/offshore schedule, or even was merely applying for the job, this new development may have sounded an unconscious note of alarm. In addition to worrying about his actions when he is out of sight, you may have questioned his emotional motivation. “Why does he want a job that keeps us apart so much?” “Is there a reason he wants to be alone?”

Because your dreams show your fiancé with a variety of different women, a general fear of infidelity is indicated, rather than a specific concern. It also is significant that you view this woman on videotape on a TV. If you’ve viewed any videos or television shows lately (during those long nights alone) that deal with the subject of affairs or betrayal (the Jerry Springer Show?), the shows may have instilled a fear of deception in your heart. If it can happen to her — why not you?

It’s normal for our minds to “play back” the events of a previous day in our dreams — including “great sex” with our lovers. Your worried mind, however, is turning these dreams of pleasure into dreams of pain. What’s the solution? While your fiancé is away, it sounds like you could use an extra measure of reassurance — that neither his eyes nor his heart is wandering. Have you considered having him call you at home each night, before you go to bed? This will help put your worried heart to rest, and let you sleep in peace.

Charles McPhee is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a master’s in communication management from the University of Southern California. He received his board certification to perform polysomnographic testing for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders in 1992. McPhee is the former Director of the Sleep Apnea Patient Treatment Program at the Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Barbara, California; the former coordinator of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA , and the former coordinator of the sleep research laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD. Please visit his website for further information.