“I’ve never been happier,” Windham-Burke tells PEOPLE, adding, “My life is now what I’ve wanted for so long”
Braunwyn Windham-Burke and Jennifer Spinner celebrated their 1 year anniversary on Saturday by getting engaged — this time for real!
After exchanging promise rings in January, committing to each other on Valentine’s Day at a Las Vegas wedding chapel, moving to Tennessee together in the spring, and getting a pair of matching tattoos to mark their bond earlier this month, the pair made the official move. to their plan to get married, with Windham-Burke, 45, proposing to Spinner, 39, at 14th Street Park in New York City.
“I’ve never been happier,” says de Real Housewives of Orange County alum tells PEOPLE, in honor of the milestone. “Jen is my person. She once said to me, ‘How much do you love me?’ And I looked at her and said, “It’s not about how much I love you. It’s about how little I love you. I love you on a molecular level.” And that’s really it. My DNA was made for her. I’m very happy that I can now say, ‘This is my fiancé’ – just as I know, one day I will be able to say, ‘This is my wife.’ “
Related: Braunwyn Windham-Burke and Jennifer Spinner Get Matching Tattoos on Anniversary: ’We Did (Another) Thing’
Windham-Burke planned the entire proposal, part of a day of activities she arranged for Spinner.
The mother of seven – who shares kids Bella, 22, Rowan, 20, Jacob, 17, 9-year-old twins Caden and Curren, Koa, 7, and Hazel, 4, with soon-to-be ex-husband Sean Burke – recreated her first date for Spinner , wore the exact same outfit and went step-by-step through the things the two had done that day.
“We had been talking privately and on the phone for a few weeks at that point, but we hadn’t met in person yet,” Windham-Burke recalled. And I both went into the day thinking we’d just be friends. In fact, she’ll tell you, she came more for a story! She was like, ‘Won’t this be a funny story to make my friends look? one to tell? day? The time I hung out with a housewife?’ “
But as they spent the day together — walking the High Line, getting popsicles, and talking — they both realized there was a lot more going on, with Spinner telling Windham-Burke about the preconception she had of her of RHOC wasn’t who she was at all.
“There wasn’t a topic we didn’t discuss that first day,” says Windham-Burke. “We got deep quickly. It was, ‘What’s important to you? What do you want in life? What’s your relationship with your family? Do you want kids? Are you spiritual?’ We all talked about it. That’s how we discovered that we had all these things in common. And we quickly started realizing, ‘Oh, this is something else.’
While on Little Island, Windham-Burke and Spinner shared their first kiss. “And then we kept kissing for the next two hours, all the way back to Penn station,” Windham-Burke recalled. “She was staying with her brother on Long Island and I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want her to go.’ “
“By the end of the day I was like, ‘There’s something about this woman, I know I’ll be with her forever,'” says Windham-Burke. “So it felt appropriate to recreate that day, but now I’m showing her, ‘Yes, I want to be with you forever — and I’ve got a ring to prove it!’ “
Related: Braunwyn Windham-Burke and Jennifer Spinner Share Why They ‘Should Be’ in the South’s ‘Right Now’ (Exclusive)
That ring, we’re talking about, was something Windham-Burke picked out while at home in a local Tennessee antique store. “She wanted more of a masculine style ring, and she wanted it to be antique because she likes things with stories,” Windham-Burke tells PEOPLE. “So I found this beautiful gold decoration ring with her birthstone, a ruby, and four diamonds on the ring.”
After a walk on the High Line and a visit to Little Island, Windham-Burke took Spinner to 14th Street Park, where Under the Tree—a women-founded, minority-owned luxury picnic company—helped set up a spread for the two, with macaroons, photos of the couple from their year together, and a “Marry Me” sign. “It was so beautiful and Jen was shocked when she saw it,” says Windham-Burke. “I couldn’t have done it without them. They made the day that much more special.”
As for the wedding, Windham-Burke and Spinner — who identifies as non-binary and uses she/her pronouns — previously discussed doing it in Nashville in October, in an old house. “It’s going to be something intimate and very rural,” Windham-Burke laughs. “Think cowboy boots.”
Related: Braunwyn Windham-Burke on her Vegas commitment to Jennifer Spinner: ‘In My Eyes and Heart, She’s My Wife’
Before that happens, of course, Windham-Burke needs a divorce. She officially filed in October 2022 after 23 years of marriage to Burke, and expects things to wrap up within months.
“Part of the reason I proposed now was because I now have an end date in my divorce; we’re about 80 days away from wrapping,” Windham-Burke tells PEOPLE. “Before, the divorce seemed endless, like it would never happen, so we would exchange promise rings, for example, or have that Vegas wedding with Elvis in an effort to put intentions into our relationship. “This is what we promise each other. This is what we promise each other. is our commitment to start a life together.’ Now it’s different. I proposed today knowing that we can actually start planning a wedding. So it feels incredible.”
In fact, Windham-Burke considers this moment to be the end of a very difficult chapter.
“My life was in turmoil for a while,” says Windham-Burke, who got sober in January 2020 and came out as a lesbian nearly a year later. “Through all the changes in my life, I was not at peace. I was working on myself, trying to stay sober, trying to make things work with Sean – while facing my sexuality and jumping from relationship to relationship. I was having a hard time! I struggled with being a mom, being a current partner, and really sitting with myself. And after I met Jen, that all changed.”
“Jen has been the balance for me. She’s the one who said, ‘It’s going to be okay. I’m here. I got you.’ She has appeared to me in ways I can’t even explain, and to my children too. There were times when, after the divorce, I worried the kids and that I wasn’t going to be okay. But she never wavered. She is a great partner to me and a great stepmom to my kids. And being engaged is also a way of showing my kids, “This is your mom. She’s not going anywhere.” “
See also: Braunwyn Windham-Burke Rings in 2023 with a ‘Promise’ to her girlfriend: ‘We are madly in love’
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The reality star gets emotional and holds back her tears as she sinks in what she just said.
“My life is now what I’ve wanted for so long,” she says. “You have to realize I got to a point where I realized I had made my life about all the wrong things. And it started, that the simple life is what I really want. I’m crazy. I’m over-the-top .I’m emotionally unstable at times.And Jen just rolls with it and loves me the way I am.And in that comes peace.That’s something I haven’t seen in myself maybe in a long time never.
“I was always looking for something – whether it was drinking or partying or a TV show or fame – and I couldn’t find it. And of course it’s not one person that creates calmness in you; it’s a lot of things come together in your life at the same time. But I can honestly say that Jen got the ball rolling. And I’m not reaching for anything anymore,” says Windham-Burke. “I finally found it.”
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