Dream Time

Dream Time couple ritual

Imagine yourself on a beautiful Trobriand island off the coast of Papua-New Guinea.  The lush, exotic vegetation stretches from shore to shore on this island no bigger than a good-sized golf course.  After a fine night’s sleep in your hut that sits on stilts above the water, you lie very still for a few moments. What did you dream just now that’s trying to fade away?  The night before, the villagers, your hosts, instructed you to try and recall the details of your dreams.  So you grab that dream and make your way down the ladder.           

After leisurely sauntering through the sandy, aquamarine water to the village commons, you find a lush breakfast set out and most of the villagers already there.  They are speaking to one another excitedly about their dreams; it seems to be what everyone is talking about.  No sooner than you find a spot and take your seat, someone asks you about your dreams.  It’s a bit odd, but you came prepared and you begin sharing your nighttime journeys, interrupted only occasionally by questions from your eager audience. 

After you’ve listened to several other people talking about their dreams, it strikes you that they speak to one another of their dreams much like Americans might ask friends about their recent trip to Europe.  The Trobriand people share their dreams every morning, but they don’t judge them and rarely seek to interpret them.  Instead, they just enjoy hearing the stories.  These peaceful people have recognized the special and unique nature of dreams and how they can foster connection and communication. 

In our culture, couples rarely spend much quality time together during the mornings of the workweek.  If both people work, and especially if there are children around, the morning is usually a rushed set of routines preparing for the day.  Imagine what a poignant start of the day it could be if partners would share each other’s dreams!  Most people aren’t standing in line to hear your dreams, but, between lovers, it can be intimate and interesting.  All it takes is seven minutes, or just one snooze cycle!

You already basically know how to go about this, but here are a few extra pointers.  Try to mostly listen as your mate tries to capture the smoke of a dream before it fades away.  People often find it difficult to recall dreams, but letting them simply talk it out freely without interruption can help.  When the dreams don’t come, why not just cuddle or try using one of the cuddling rituals instead?

Before you try out this couple ritual, let me offer a word of caution about interpreting dreams.  It’s a tricky business, because right and wrong (assuming there is one) are difficult to discern, and the focus of the ritual should be more on sharing and being together.  Dictionary-type dream books are based on the assumption that symbols have common cultural referents, and they therefore offer meanings for the more common symbols that appear in dreams.  But there are several possible connotations for a given symbol, so that this kind of fishing expedition may or may not yield anything useful.  Also, you might be on the wrong track and think you’re on the right one.  There are couples who are very serious about their dreams and  keep a journal for the purpose of having it professionally analyzed. 

While the focus can shift from being more about the dreams to being more about being together, I recommend keeping the focus of the ritual on the latter.  Dreams can be fanciful, weird, silly, and disturbing.  It’s all too easy to drift from interpreting dreams to judging them and drawing conclusions.  When that begins to happen, don’t be surprised if defensiveness and even anger show up and the open door of communication and sharing starts to close a little bit.  Take a hint from the Trobriand culture and listen and enjoy the dreams in an open, interested way.



  • Partners who don’t spend every night together obviously do the dreamtime ritual on those mornings when they do wake up together.  If you don’t sleep together often or ever, try sharing your dreams in a morning phone call.
  • If it seems too burdensome to do every day, try doing it only on weekends, or when the mood seems right.
  • When no dreams come to one or both of you, throw in a cuddling or other nurturing touch ritual.
  • If a shared dream is particularly interesting, couples sometimes choose to revisit it later in the day, maybe around a meal.  When both partners work, phone calls over lunch are favorite times.  One couple that particularly valued dreams dedicated their Sunday lunch to nothing but dream discussions.


Principal Purposes Served

  • Stable touchstone
  • Emotional money in the bank
  • Nurturing contact
  • Fosters trust
  • Builds the relationship culture and history


Recommended Readings

  • Robert Bosnak, A Little Course In Dreams, Shambala, 1993
  • Stanley Kripner, and Mark Waldman, Dreamscaping, Lola House, 1999
  • The Dalai Lama, Sleeping, Dreaming, And Dying, Wisdom Publications, 1997
  • Robert Vanda Castle, Our Dreaming Mind, Random House, 1994