Dreams of Ex-Husband Had a Pattern: “Barb Sanders”

Part 1/6

Scientists who study dreams can know a lot about their subjects, especially if they interview their friends and family, and really “dive deep” into their lives and writings.

Even so, they can’t possibly know as much as the person being studied themselves.

This is forgotten and the study of dreams is misapplied too often.

It’s well and good for scientists to study dreamers and their dreams but it can’t match the individual when it comes to understanding them.

One of Calvin Hall’s dream test subjects used her dreams to gain perspective on her life, though you couldn’t say that she truly analyzed them.

It’s a shame, too, because she made a number of bad decisions from time to time and wasn’t nearly as happy as she could have been.

“Barb Sanders”

Hall pseudonymously named this subject “Barb Sanders.” Sanders was always interested in dreams, a member of dreamer groups, and kept a dream journal from her teen years through much of her adult life.

Barb was born in the 1940s and raised in a small town, the oldest of four children. Her parents were both college graduates and enjoyed music. They had all their kids play instruments.

She was an average student. Like many of her generation, she got married after one year of college.

Though she married rather young, as a teen her love life had no shortage of drama.

Barb had a high school boyfriend, Darryl. She considered Darryl to be the love of her life. When he left for the Navy, they had an understanding where they were allowed to see other people. After he left, he started seeing other girls. Barb felt betrayed and started going out with someone else.

She ended up with a husband she had misgivings about from the very beginning as well as three daughters.

One day Barb impulsively made a big mistake…

She knew she had made a mistake from the very beginning. Howard didn’t seem to care about her the way the “love of her life” did. Howard was primarily interested in sex, not her, she said.

By the time she was 30, Barb had divorced, left her daughters with her husband, and got a job working at a community college. Over the following years, she had relationships with several men but never remarried.

Researchers interviewed her friends about her relationships. Both of them said Barb had a certain blind spot when it came to men. “She doesn’t see them for what they are at the time she starts a relationship,” one said.

Barb was interested in her dreams and participated in a dreamer’s group. She started a dream journal a few years after her divorce when she was having nightmares. She hoped to gain insight into herself.

The people in Barb’s dreams

Barb dreamed about friends and family like all of us. Her feelings about them came out in her dreams as she tried to understand them and their actions.

Her mother figured in almost 8 percent of the dreams studied in Hall’s study. During much of that period, Barb was troubled by her.

“I told one of my women friends that the love of my mother is like carrying a barbed blue baby blanket, you know, with barbs in it. It’s supposed to be soft and cuddly and loving, but in fact, she was sharp and critical and negative and physically distant,” she wrote.

In second place as a frequent dream character was Barb’s father. He appeared in 213 reports. Unlike the relationship with her mother, Barb got along better with her father.

Her middle daughter appeared in 165 dream reports. When Barb and Howard got divorced when she was 4 1/2, the middle daughter was troubled by it. She did poorly in school, couldn’t hold onto a job, and had psychological problems. The daughter made Barb a grandmother while the daughter was still a teenager and left and returned to live with Barb from time to time. There was a lot of tension between them, even though Barb worried a lot about her.

Barb had a more harmonious relationship with her oldest and youngest daughters. She dreamed of them only half as much as the middle daughter.

She also had dreams about her brothers, especially the one who was the next youngest, and the men she was infatuated with from time to time.


Barb Sanders first met Howard, when they were in high school, where they had nearby lockers. They sometimes danced or flirted, though Howard had a steady girlfriend at the time.

When Barb was a senior, she fell in love with Darryl. That relationship didn’t work out.

“When Darryl went off to the Navy we decided we would not go steady, but we were still going to get married, but we could explore with other people,” Barb said in an interview.

“It kind of broke my heart,” she said.

“I found out in an indirect way that he, when we were going steady, he was going out with some other woman at the Navy base. I felt terribly betrayed.”

Though Darryl asked her to marry him, as well as another man, Barb was angry and married Howard instead.

Howard, who ended up appearing in 133 dream reports, was at a major university far from their hometown. Barb and Howard met each other after he came home for the summer and got reacquainted. She had doubts about the relationship all along because he acted insensitively. To Barb, Howard just wanted sex out of the relationship.

She felt like their sexual interactions were more like rape than seduction.

The Howard dreams had a pattern

The recurring Howard dreams have a typical pattern and extend over the courtship, marriage, and divorce periods not really changing until her later years in 1996.

In the first part of the typical Howard dream, Howard is back. She’s annoyed about this or apprehensive.

In the dream, he wants to get back together in some way. Sometimes, she’s the one who wants to get back together.

Then in the last part, Howard wants sex. Barb is hesitant, sometimes tempted, and then changes her mind.

In 1996, however, the Howard dreams started to feature more regret. She thinks about reconciliation though they live far apart and never communicated. By this time, Howard had been remarried for years.

Howard died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1997. In an interview in 2000, Barb notices that a “forgiveness phase happened.”

I was able to let go of a lot of the anger and get more in touch with the sadness.

But even in that period, in 1999, she has a typical Howard dream from the past.

I am in bed with Howard and he feels sexual desire for me. He’s looking at me; he groans and says you’re so beautiful. I move away from and say, ” Please don’t.” He looks sad and says “Please.” And I say I’m sorry. I pull away from him so we’re not touching and I say to him, sometimes I think about just letting you do it, to give you relief, but I just can’t, after all those 10 years of marriage and I begin to cry. He gets out of bed and comes around and tries awkwardly to help me feel better. I feel very sad…

Next in the series…

A pattern with men repeats itself…

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James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 


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