[I wrote this post several months ago, shortly after the divorce was finalized. I have held off publishing it until all the final details were completed. Now they are.]

“How long were you married,” was always the first question. “Nine years,” I would reply. It was only a slight exaggeration. Our anniversary was only a few months away, and the mandatory waiting period meant we wouldn’t be divorced for six months, at least. “That’s a long time. You must have gotten married young.”

It didn’t feel like it at the time. We were both out of college – she had a master’s degree already! – when I proposed. We had career paths and car payments, student loans and credit cards, rent checks and insurance premiums. We felt like adults, though still struggling to learn who we really were and where we really fit and what was really important. Several of our other friends had already said their vows a year or more before, and we loved each other. She agreed, and the ceremony was a year later. We were twenty-three.

The years seem to have rushed by now, looking back. Our career paths detoured, and we sold our cars. A new city meant new friends gained, and old friends grown distant. The credit cards and loan payments were still there, but we exchanged the rent check for a mortgage payment, and put down roots. There were no children – a fact for which I am ever so grateful now – and as we discovered more of who we were, our love was changed and redefined, but was still a constant to me.

When I uncovered her affair, my world view shattered. I left her. I told our mutual friends what was happening, moved out of the house, and spent the next four-and-a-half months hurting. I posted to a secret, anonymous blog, dumping to it anything that came into my head: I wrote angry epitaphs, aimed at her. I wrote of the unexpected sadness I felt at the family we would never now have. I transcribed the dreams from which I awoke crying at three o’clock in the morning.

And then, without warning, I got over her. I moved on.

“That’s too fast,” people would say. “Ten years is a long time. You can’t be over her that quickly. Give yourself time to heal.” Know thyself, said somebody or another. And I guess I do. I had set myself up to succeed the moment I decided the marriage was over. With the help of my friends and family, I had made it through to the other side. For the first time in a decade, I was ready to live only for myself. I could do anything I wanted, and I did. I lost forty-five pounds. I went on trips and to concerts. I ate goat brains and learned to love seafood. I started dating.

I threw a big party this past New Years Eve. As I mingled with friends new and old, I found myself telling them that 2012 had been a really good year for me. Sure, a terrible thing had happened, but I came through it happier and healthier and more fulfilled than ever before. Loss and pain have acted like a lens, focusing me on what I want and what is important to me. My future is clearer to me now than ever before.