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Learning the Steps

I had an affair a few years ago, and strongly feel the need to prove to my husband that I am being faithful. I’m not sure why I had this dream; but I woke up feeling a little sad and confused, though a little bit stronger. We’ve been in a position like the dream several times, and I have always continued to defend my actions and where I was. I do this because I believe he has every right to wonder where I am and what I’m doing because I deceived him. I am, however, somewhat tired of defending my every move.

In my dream, I was in high school, but working for the same company I am today. I took the day off to go to school. While I was there, my drama team was having a rehearsal for a dance program they were putting on. My drama coach told me I was up next to perform. I had no idea what I was supposed to do or what music was to be playing.

They began to play the music and I choreographed as I went on. The next day, the same thing: They played the same music and I did the same routine. Finally, on the third day, I couldn’t remember the steps. I managed to get through it. My friends were supportive of my efforts.

When I returned to work, my husband (who in the dream also works in my office) was in my office with the door shut. I assumed he was in a meeting and went to the bathroom. A few minutes later, he was banging on the door asking me where the hell I was. I told him I was at drama practice. He said I was lying and that Susie said I was at Lamar (our high school rival team) with them and he didn’t like where I was standing on the street after they returned to the school.

I swore I was at the school, but he didn’t believe me. I said “F___ you” to him and walked away, believing in my heart that if he loved me he would believe me and that life with someone always distrusting you isn’t worth making the effort. Then I woke up.

— stephanie, age 32, married, female, El Paso, TX

Hi Stephanie,

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re not being allowed to grow up?

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Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

You are 32 years old, but it’s no accident that this dream places you back in high school. You had an affair a few years ago (a mis-step), and your dream shows that you now are trying to “make all the right moves” (perform a choreographed routine) to prove your fidelity to your husband — and regain his trust. Unfortunately, your repeated performances appear to be going unappreciated. Your husband still has not forgiven your earlier transgression, and continues to treat you with distrust.

When dreams locate us “back in time,” they are telling us that our current behavior reminds us of how we used to feel when we were younger. It’s clear you feel bad about your affair, and now wish to make amends, even if it means playing a subservient, “student/teacher” role with your husband. If the man you had an affair with is someone you knew from high school, it’s also clear your husband worries about you visiting the “rival team.”

In the dream, you are unprepared for the role you are called upon to perform. If the dance routine represents efforts you are making to heal your relationship, have you considered that it may be time for professional help? Affairs always injure relationships. A marriage counselor may be just the specialist you need — to “learn the steps” of rebuilding trust with your husband.

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.

Learning the Steps

Charles McPhee

APA Reference
McPhee, C. (2020). Learning the Steps. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.