This February, with no warning at all, my wife told me it was over. I was blindsided. Sure, our marriage was far from perfect, and we’d had our fights, but I’d never expected anything to happen so suddenly. One day, things had seemed fine. The next, the love of my life was gone, and with horror I realized she’d taken all my belts with her.

Nothing can prepare you for that emotional blow: simultaneously losing your soulmate and your primary means of keeping loose-fitting pants from falling down. I raced upstairs, where I confirmed my worst fears. My wife was gone and my main belt rack was empty of belts: a deserted wasteland. Brown belts, black belts, woven belts, glossy belts—many dozens of belts had disappeared. For so long, they were there, and now, suddenly, they weren’t.

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I remember how empty the house felt in those first few weeks. In place of our usual morning routine was a void. Where once we had cooked eggs and, with my jeans comfortably secured at my waist, talked idly about our lives, now all I could do was pace, beltless and alone in the morning light, trying to figure out what went wrong. In the evenings, I’d set the table for two out of habit. Then I’d reach down to adjust my belt and find that my pants had fallen all the way down to my feet.

Nothing can prepare you for that emotional blow: simultaneously losing your soulmate and your primary means of keeping loose-fitting pants from falling down.

Soon, I saw that I couldn’t go on like this forever. There was no use obsessing over whether or not my wife was using the belts, whether she had thrown them away, whether she still loved me, or how she’d so thoroughly collected all the stray belts that had once littered the floors of our house. The living room, which had once been a sprawling graveyard of my beautiful discarded and broken belts, was now bare, and I had to accept that crying for hours wasn’t going to bring my belts back.

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I learned to stop scouring my memory for warning signs in the last days of our marriage. Had I overlooked my wife’s needs? Had I talked too much about my expansive troves of belts, at the expense of our relationship? Were the belts themselves, covering every spare inch of space in our house, part of the issue? These are pointless questions. That’s in the past.

Now, I’m dating again. It’s been a slow climb, and I’m only just now starting to feel comfortable. Even though I haven’t bought any new belts, I’ve bought a lot of nice basketball shorts, which I think is a good start. As a rule, I don’t like to bring up my ex-wife on first dates—there’s still too much pain. But if the date’s going well, and the moment feels right, sometimes I talk about my belts. The many belts I owned, in another life.