Unfinished Business: Getting Closure for Old Hurts

Having unresolved conflict in your relationships–especially in your marriage–creates tension that weighs on both you and your spouse. It distracts you and eventually creates resentment, further breaking down your relationship. We like to think of this kind of conflict as unfinished business.

Unfinished business involves issues you and your spouse have never been able to fully work through. If one of you is holding onto old hurts, it’s likely you’ve never felt like those have had a chance to heal. This can happen for many reasons, and the longer hard feelings simmer, the more difficult they will be to resolve.

It’s crucial to get closure on events and circumstances that have caused us emotional pain. Want to start down a better path? Read on.

Unfinished Business is Unproductive

Unresolved conflict in your marriage keeps your focus off the present. Instead, you spend your precious time and energy thinking about things that happened in the past. Keeping a negative perspective on your marriage will make it increasingly difficult to feel gratitude and peace in the moment.

Rather than making new memories together, you’re reliving past hurts and reopening old wounds. Every situation is different. Sometimes, we hold onto petty disagreements and squabbles that should be easy to let go of. In other situations, we’re carrying the weight of a major betrayal and trying to overcome it without closure.

Either way, failing to get closure will ensure you get stuck in the past hurt–and that prevents you both from moving forward in a meaningful way.

Unfinished Business Complicates New Conflict

When we have unfinished business in marriage, it’s most likely to emerge during new conflict. In other words, yesterday’s wounds complicate today’s problems. Instead of getting down to business and clearing away the issue you’re facing right now, you suddenly find yourselves entrenched in a fight from years ago.

You’ve probably heard the term “kitchen-sinking.” This phenomenon happens when you’re in a disagreement with someone, and they start bringing up old conflicts you thought had been long resolved. If this sounds familiar, you definitely have unfinished business to attend to.

How to Get Closure From Unfinished Business

The healthiest thing you and your spouse can do is work on resolving and getting beyond your unfinished business. Your marriage depends on you making this change. If one or both of you is repeatedly bringing up past hurts, it’s time to find closure.

Take some time to journal about the issues from the past that are still bothering you. Make a list if you need to, and work on processing why these issues still hurt and what you think might help you feel more peace in letting them go. Journaling first gives you time to decide which issues you can release on your own, and which you might need to work through with your spouse.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list to the things you can’t resolve without your spouse, it’s time to start working together. Consider dealing with one issue at a time, and seek professional support if you’re finding them hard to address. This will help you prevent unnecessary pain and overwhelm.

How you handle conflict, from the everyday to the intense, makes all the difference to the future of your marriage. Looking for a little support? Our book, I Love You More, helps you turn the hard times in your marriage into opportunities to show one another more love. Get your copy here.

Have you and your spouse overcome unresolved conflict? How did you do it, and what positive effects has that had on your marriage? Tell us your stories in the comments.


  • charise says:

    I think what makes it hard is that it’s the same kind of hurt just a different day. My issues arise from the same kind of wounds that have been trying to heal but just get opened up wider. The point of me bringing up past issues is that not much has changed. I have said what I needed even in counseling and not much has changed. I am tired of being a single wife. I don’t like being treated like Leah and everything else is Rachel. If my husband is to love me like he loves his own body, well then I feel like skin cancer.

    • JackO says:

      You nailed the head on the head with how it feels to be in an unresolved relationship with my husband who cheated multiple times (within 5yrs of a 10yr marriage) and promised change and loyalty only to keep doing the same types of attitude and behavior he’s done before. He claims he’s not cheating and demanding that I get over my Relationship PTSD he’s caused.
      He treats me like he’s the victim and I’m the betrayer of his trust.

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