Advice columnist

Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: My husband and I are getting divorced. We have lived like roommates for years, but it all came to an end when he started blaming me for most of our problems, began an emotional affair and kept lying about it when I caught him. I've moved ahead with finding an attorney.

He finally apologized for how things ended, but it's unclear to me what he's really sorry for — the lying and getting caught, the affair itself or how he was treating me.

Everything is moving so quickly. We're not compatible and maybe never were, so this will be a good thing for us. However, I do still care about him and believe his mental health issues were at least partly to blame for his behavior.

He has rewritten our past enough that now I'm questioning what is true and what isn't. I'm also blaming myself for not being more emotionally available (he wasn't either), not being more compassionate about his mental health issues, and just not being a good partner in general. At the same time, he told me he never opened up to me emotionally either and wasn't really what I was looking for in a partner.

How do I learn from my mistakes without thinking, based on what he is telling me, they were bigger than they were? How do I stop internalizing the blame he has placed on me?


(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

I'd like to stop beating myself up over things that may or may not have really happened.

— Hindsight

Hindsight: That’s tiring just to read, so living it will wear you out. That’s normal.

You’re going through plenty just with the logistics of divorce, so achieving clarity at the same time is probably asking too much.

My only advice is to stop trying to figure all of it out. In fact, don’t try to figure any of it out. Just get through the mechanics of it. Attorney, yes, and a home of your own, and your own finances and home goods and all of that. These take time and attention. Make sure that attention is available by keeping your to-do list short. When the questions bubble up, let them go unanswered. Say it aloud if you have to: “I’ll get to that later.” Or: “That can wait.”

Then, when you’re there in your own space without a marriage or a divorce to manage, listen for the silence.

When you hear it, that’s when it’s time to think about all those questions. You might find, and I suspect you will, that some of them will have answered themselves in the process. The churn of an emotional transition can make issues seem more complicated than they really are. And if your husband’s emotional MO is to deflect/diffuse/muddy, then the post-marital silence will be more powerful still.

Re: Hindsight: Keep a journal, and don't read it until much later. It will help you know what was real.

— Anonymous

Re: Hindsight: There is no one perfect story to be told here, one that will explain everything, or send you off unencumbered into the future; there's just life, and plenty more to be lived, imperfectly and messily, and without any definitive explanations.

— Messy

Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.