The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills performer was 20 years old when she gave birth to her son Thomas, but split from his father after a brief marriage. She then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment. She was working as a cocktail waitress at the restaurant Chasen’s when she met attorney Tom Girardi. The two fell in love, married in 1999, and it’s been working ever since.
“How do you keep it spicy and keep it going for 20 years?” Kandi asked Erika of the marriage.
“You talk, and you communicate and it changes and it peaks and it valleys and it changes and it’s cool but as long as you’re communicating you’ll make it through,” Erika said.
On how the sex stays hot after two decades, Erika joked, “I can’t tell you that,” but “no, it really is all about loving and trusting one another and I think that that’s what you really need to do, and you’re communicating and you’re making it work.”
Yes, but the sex?
“It’s not the same as it was in the beginning,” Erika admitted, “because other things take over, compassion, love, empathy, all of that, but that doesn’t mean that you can leave the physical component out of it. You have to still keep that alive.”
Twenty years is a long time, she confessed, adding she “would have never thought” it would last this long.
“I mean no one in my family I don’t think, my grandparents yes, but my mother never made it to 20 years,” Erika said. “I think we’re pretty good…yeah, we’re pretty good. He said it’s not a first marriage for either one of us. So, it’s a different approach…It would be different if it was someone’s first marriage. When you’re an adult and you’ve been through some of those things, I think you approach it differently.”
It’s true, say experts. Sometimes you leave the mistakes of your first marriage behind, sometimes you were just too young, or weren’t ready emotionally. If that’s the case, the second time around can be a better experience. Both Erika and Tom had been married before, leading them to a more mature place in their marriage.
"Sometimes people need a 'starter marriage' to better learn about their values, needs and wants. This is true, especially for those who marry young,” she says. "In a second marriage, oftentimes people don't want to repeat mistakes from their last one. They may enter the union more consciously willing to do the work necessary to keep the relationship healthy and connected. This relationship can be different not just because the people involved are with different partners, but also because they, themselves, may show up differently after a marriage that didn't work."
Carrie D. Gottlieb, Ph.D, says in order to successfully move on into another marriage, you first have to figure out what happened in your first one.
“I think that a second marriage can be more successful, but only when an individual really puts in the work to figure out what went wrong in the first place,” she says. “People are often inclined to repeat patterns or mistakes and may end up in a similar situation again. However, careful reflection, with or without a therapist, can help you really figure out what you want and do not want in a relationship. I also believe that the ending of a marriage or a significant relationship helps you learn to not take relationships for granted. I think you are more aware of the kind of work that needs to go into a healthy relationship and what happens when we ignore or neglect relationships.”
New York-based relationship therapist Dr. Liz Lasky says that a second marriage can be a “breath of fresh air.”
“Hopefully, you come to the second marriage with new lessons, new values, and a new commitment to a successful marriage,” she says. “The gift of the second marriage is wisdom. People often know what works for them in a relationship and what doesn’t work. You can learn these lessons through experience.”
It’s working for Erika and Tom — she’s his third Mrs. Girardi and they don’t even have a prenup. In Beverly Hills, that’s true love.
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