Question: Last month while on a business trip, I cheated on my husband. Our marriage has been rocky for years, but I've never even thought about cheating. This is clearly a sign that I need to sit down and either resolve the issues with my husband or move on. We can't stay in this "rocky" state perpetually.

But I don't want to have that conversation two weeks before Christmas. I've already been dealing with this stress for the last month, and it has taken a toll on me physically, but I need to get through the holidays (parties, family events) before I can have a real heart-to-heart with my husband. How do I keep the stress of this from eating away at me for the next few weeks?

Answer: Therapy, stat. For you alone now, and only as a couple later if it's applicable. That is, assuming you're in a part of the world well stocked with mental-health professionals, which is, unfortunately, not always the case.

If you're not, an Al-Anon meeting might provide refuge, even though on its face it might not seem like a good fit. It's free, it's accessible in most locations, and it's all about learning to let go. If you find it's useful to you, you also don't have to wait for a next appointment to go again.

Though I'm not a huge fan of putting things off because "before Christmas" is taboo, it sounds as though you would benefit from some time spent sorting through your thoughts and feelings before you tackle this. Good luck.

Comment: Individual counseling will help you sort out what you're feeling, why you cheated, and what you're feeling about the marriage now, so you can figure out how to present it to him.

It also might be best if you tell him after the holidays within the confines of the therapist's office. That way, the therapist can help guide you through it. Signed, someone who had an emotional affair who followed those steps and whose marriage is now considerably better.

Response: Helpful, thanks.

Question: Why do men pull away? Just when everything is going great? I am so tired of hearing, "It's not you, it's me." And the thing is, they are right. It would be easy to attribute it to another woman or wanting to sleep around, but none of that applies to the last four guys I dated. So what gives?

Answer: No, they're not right, said the jolly old elf. Or at least they might not be.

When one person pulls away just as things are going great, then it's not you, it's the other person, most likely. But when it happens a fourth time in a row, you have to face the fact that you're the common denominator.

I'm not necessarily saying there's something about you that sends them running - it could also be that you're attracted to a common quality in them, and it's that quality or trait that gets in the way.

It is always possible it's a run of bad luck, yes, but if you don't at least look for common themes in you, the risk of a fifth bailout is real.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.