A Timeline of Erika & Tom Girardi's Relationship, from Friendship to Fame to a Surprise Split

Getting to Know Each Other

Erika, 49, and Tom, 81, first met over two decades ago, when she was a cocktail waitress at the L.A. restaurant Chasen’s, where Tom was a regular.

Then 27, divorced and with a young son, Thomas, now 26, “marriage was the furthest thing from my mind,” Girardi told PEOPLE in 2018.

But fate intervened, and after a year-long friendship, Tom, a powerhouse attorney famed for the landmark case that inspired the film Erin Brokovich, asked her out.

Their connection was immediate. “Tom did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth,” says Girardi, who shared her own painful past in her book, Pretty Mess. “We both came up the hard way. And we appreciate growth.”

A few months after they met, Girardi moved in; six months after that, Tom proposed. They wed in 1999, at the same restaurant where they met. 

It was the second marriage for Erika, who was previously married to ex-husband Tommy Zizzo, and the third marriage for Tom.

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Addressing Their Age Difference

Erika was 27 when she met Tom, 33 years her senior.

And though she admits that early on in their relationship she was judged by their age difference, (“Everyone thought I was marrying him to have a baby and lock down the money, as ugly as that sounds”), Girardi said in 2018, “I see it less and less now.”

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‘An Enigma Wrapped in a Riddle and Cash’

In 2015, Erika was introduced as the newest cast member on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

The couple largely kept their relationship off camera, but Tom made regular — if infrequent — appearances throughout the subsequent five seasons. 

In a 2017 episode, Erika discusses her marriage in an interview that plays during a scene of the pair at dinner.

“People are always like, ‘Oh you guys don’t see each other a lot,’ but when we do see each other, it’s 100 percent full-on attention,” Erika says. “This is what people don’t understand: It’s not a detriment to the relationship, it’s actually helpful. It’s better than someone being in your face all the time and you’re not even present.”

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A Tale of Two Personas

When Erika was introduced on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, she offered viewers not just one Housewife to love, but two.

There was Girardi herself — the down-to-earth, loving wife of a top-trial lawyer who rises above the drama and always has an understanding ear for her fellow Housewives to seek for advice. And then there was her musical alter-ego Erika Jayne — the bold, sexpot singer with legions of dedicated fans and an unapologetic attitude.

“I wanted to create again,” Girardi told PEOPLE in 2018 of how Erika Jayne came to be. “I had to be brave enough to say, ‘I’m not fulfilled.’ ”

She also admitted that starting a music career at 35 raised some eyebrows.

“People told me I was insane,” she said. “Erika Jayne was born out of rebellion. I like to break the rules.”

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Common Ground

Erika gave insight in a 2017 interview as to what made her then 17-year marriage solid, stressing the importance of mutual interests.

“You have to be friends. You have to be friends and you have to have a common ground,” Erika told Bravo’s The Daily Dish. “You have to like the same things. You have to see the world the same way. You have to have the same interests. And when you are genuinely rooting for the other guy — you know Tom is very supportive of me and I am very supportive of him — and I think that’s what makes it work.”

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Answering the Question Everyone Asks

Erika gave a rare glimpse into her sex life in a conversation with RHOBH castmate Garcelle Beauvais in an episode that aired in April.

“It’s OK. People always ask that. They’re always [like] what’s going on? Is it 20-year-old f—ing all day long? No,” she said. However, she said that’s fine with her. “We got bills to pay.”

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Spotlight on Erika

In 2019, it was announced that Girardi would star as Roxie Hart in the Broadway production of Chicago (which was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Her rehearsals were documented on season 10 of RHOBH, and castmates Kyle Richards, Lisa Rinna, Dorit Kemsley, Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave and Sutton Stracke flew to N.Y.C. for Erika’s Broadway debut.

Tom — it was later revealed — never got to see Erika perform as Roxie.

“Well, you know, Tom wasn’t able to come to the show,” Erika said during the season 10 reunion. “He was gonna come the last week and COVID happened, so he never saw the show.”

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Shocking Split

On Nov. 3, Erika filed for divorce from her husband of 21 years according to documents obtained by The Blast.

“After much consideration, I have decided to end my marriage to Tom Girardi,” Erika said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “This is not a step taken lightly or easily. I have great love and respect for Tom and for our years and the lives we built together.”

“It is my absolute wish to proceed through this process with respect and with the privacy that both Tom and I deserved,” she added. “I request others give us that privacy as well.”

E! News was first to report the news of the split.

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star previously revealed during an appearance on Andy Cohen’s Then & Now in 2017 that they do not have a prenup in place.

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