The Aftermath

The Next Family

By: Heather Somaini

I’d like to say that from the minute I proposed everything was rose petals, rainbows, and heart-shaped clouds but to be honest, it all started to fall apart a bit.

We were both at the top of our game, making more than we had ever made before. I had recently purchased my first home – a condo in West Hollywood – and was in the middle of a complete remodel. Tere had been in her new, fabulous house near the beach in Belmont Shore for just under two years.

The first bomb hit in mid-January when Tere got word that her company was merging with another and they were going to go with “the other guy”. It happens a lot when you have two people doing the same job – one has to go. She negotiated a good exit package with our “family” lawyer Andi and had some time to figure out her next move.

She told me on a Tuesday night in the loft at her house. It was a little surreal at first. I had that fight or flight response where all the blood rushes out of your hands and feet. I was saying all the right things, trying to make her feel better, but inside all I could think of was how I had made a terrible mistake. That as soon as I made a commitment to someone, someone who seemed amazing on every level, they were going to fall apart and fail me. I was spiraling into that dark vortex of doubt and starting to think once again that I was the only person I could rely on.
Tere and I both have “responsibility” issues – we take too much. I think it’s because we both had to become super-independent early. At 18, I left “home” in Europe and came back to the states for college. There was no home to go to on weekends or short holidays. I spoke to my parents once a week if I was lucky and worked through the summers in my college town. I was like a half-townie. Tere, on the other hand, was sent to an all-girls, Catholic boarding school when she was 14. She was a two-hour bus trip away but only went home on the one mandatory weekend a month. When it came time for college, she was completely on her own. She was accepted to the Berklee College of Music in Boston (for classical guitar no less) but didn’t have the money or courage to go – she had never been out of southern California. A friend was going to Long Beach State so Tere tagged along and figured out a way to both work and go to school full-time. Neither of us felt like we could ever go home. We had to stand on our two feet from the get-go.

In that moment, as Tere explained everything to me, I became an island – again. I hated the feeling, knew it too well. I wanted to run away. But something made me stop, not exactly sure what. Maybe I decided to trust the universe for a minute. The blood slowly came back to my hands and feet. This wasn’t so bad.

A month later, one of Tere’s good friends passed away from her second bout of cancer. On the same day as the funeral, my CEO called asking me to join their refocused effort in another area but I just couldn’t sell our technology to pharmaceutical companies. We bit the bullet and sold Tere’s house, finished the remodel on my condo, and moved in together. It was not easy and Tere fought it along the way. She didn’t want to move backwards but we both needed the opportunity to take some time, re-invent ourselves and plan a wedding! I took a position with a tiny film distributor making a lot less and Tere started with a small real estate developer.

It was uncharted territory for both of us but it gave us time. We had loud neighbors, limited space, and ridiculously long work hours. We struggled; but I think of it as the time that we truly came together. We needed each other’s support and counsel and we gave it freely. We took our first real trip together to Germany and Italy with my family. It was fabulous. We shopped at Armani and Prada – Tere was in heaven. We saw the sights and ate our way through the pasta capitol of the world.

And anyway, a wedding, as we were finding out, takes a lot of time and energy to plan – especially when you don’t hire a wedding coordinator!

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