04/16/2013 10:16 am ET Updated Jun 16, 2013

Reflections on My Wedding Anniversary Date

If still married, we would be celebrating our 23rd Wedding Anniversary this year. Our divorce was finalized a few weeks after our 13th anniversary. I find that when the calendar flips to my wedding date each year I focus less on my divorce and miserable aspects of our marriage, but instead reflect more on my hopes and dreams on my wedding day so many years ago.

I had the wedding little girls dream about. My father is a minister and so not only walked me down the aisle but he married us. Our wedding was held in the garden patio of a hotel in Laguna Beach, California. Flowers were in full bloom and a string quartet playing softly in the background. I can still remember standing at the gazebo and listening to the waves crashing on the beach to quiet my nerves as my father read our wedding vows for us to recite.

It was also the last day I would spend with my grandfather who passed away a few months later of a heart attack. The last picture of him taken was at my wedding with his bride of over 60 years. It was a memorable day I cherish in my heart.

Like many young women, my hopes were that I would raise a family, excel in my career and be happy. I had a lot of ideas around what "happy" would look like -- mostly of keeping up with the Joneses and living the American Dream.

As the years progressed, my career excelled and we did all the happy things I dreamed about -- wonderful vacations, golfing, buying a house, learning how to sail and dining at upscale restaurants. In the later years of my marriage, we had a beautiful daughter.

Although to a certain extent I got what I wished for on my wedding day; but I was empty, sad and lonely on the inside. Our marriage was all about our outward appearance and we spent a lot of money and effort looking like we were happy. We did not invest the time in building a relationship that would last until death us do part.

The failure of our marriage rests equally on both our shoulders. Marriage counseling was unable to bridge the gap that had grown between us. I left my marriage an emotionally broken woman who had no confidence in her ability to cope with life, let alone as a single mother.

Once divorced, I started rebuilding my life, which took courage and perseverance. I had to take an honest look at my actions that resulted in the failure of my marriage. I went through countless boxes of tissues as I released my emotional pain. I can't even begin to count how many days I just wanted to lie in bed versus dealing with my life.

A group of wonderful friends rallied around me during this time. To them, I am forever grateful. It is through their example of living that I learned to rebuild my life.

Self-discovery is never an easy journey. Take it a day at a time, I was told. Through many tears, I learned to peel the onion and get rid of bad behaviors and misconceptions I had about myself. At the core I discovered my talents, strengths and values of who I am today. I have learned to embrace and nurture my gifts. My life has transformed beyond my wildest dream.

I reflect back on my journey over the past 10 years and can honestly say that today I am living the life I was dreamed of on my wedding day 23 years ago. The difference is my happiness is not defined by my material possessions. My happiness is defined by knowing and loving the woman I have become.

Today I have the willingness to be emotionally and intimately vulnerable to a man who I love as we work together to build a strong committed relationship. I have stepped into a life of joy.