Back in 2019, Braunwyn Windham-Burke was starring on The Real Housewives of Orange County with her businessman husband, Sean Burke. The seemingly perfect couple lived in a mansion with stunning ocean views, threw booze-filled parties for friends and traveled the globe with their seven children (Bella, 23, Rowan, 21, Jacob, 18, Caden and Curren, both 10, Koa, 9, and Hazel, 6.)

Five years later, Windham-Burke’s life couldn’t look more different. In 2020, she got sober and came out as gay. She’s been engaged to Jennifer Spinner since July 2022 and finalized her divorce from Sean last November following 23 years of marriage. She and Spinner left the OC and ventured to the small town of Franklin, Tennessee, where they now reside in a modest townhouse after briefly living with Sean in a “nesting” situation.

It’s a fresh start for the reality TV alum, who’s currently working as a recovery coach and had to save for months to get a car. “I had it all, but I wasn’t happy,” says the 46-year-old. “Turns out I didn’t want any of that. Things are really different now, but they’re also really good.”

Windham-Burke opens up about what the future holds in Us Weekly‘s newest issue:

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Why did you leave the OC?

I was having a hard time after Real Housewives and coming out and getting sober. I went to junior high school and high school in Laguna Beach. Everyone knew everything about me. I’d have panic attacks when I went to the grocery store.

RHOC s Braunwyn Windham Burke Is Starting Fresh After Sean Burke Divorce
Courtesy of Braunwyn Windham-Burke

Why Tennessee?

I never found Orange County to be the wholesome environment I wanted for my kids. I had sober friends out here, [The Hills alum] Jason Wahler, and he was like, “Move to Franklin.” We came here and the first house we saw, I was like, “This is it. This is the life I want.”

And Sean was OK with the move?

He said, “Yes, you can go as long as you put my name on the lease, too.” He wanted to know that he had a place to stay with the kids. He was only supposed to be there for a little bit. I said, “We can go back to nesting, where you can stay in our guest room 10 days a month to be with the kids.” It worked well for a while, [but in the end], I had to be the one to leave. I actually had to have my psychiatrist write me a letter to get off the lease and say this is not a healthy living environment.

(When reached for comment, Sean Burke denied creating an unhealthy living environment and stated that he was a “supportive and caring husband through the course of the marriage.”)

Your life has changed a lot since your RHOC days…

It’s a riches-to-rags story. I have less than I did when I was 18. I have to work, which is hard after you’ve never been in the workforce. I’m lucky I was able to go back to school with my parents’ help.

Do you wish you’d been involved with your family’s finances?

Any woman should be seeing her bank account. She should be paying bills, too. I fell into the trap of easiness. I had a credit card and it worked, and that’s all I needed to know.

RHOC s Braunwyn Windham Burke Is Starting Fresh After Sean Burke Divorce
Courtesy of Braunwyn Windham-Burke

Would you say you lost your identity during your marriage to Sean?

I met Sean when I was 18. Then I was so busy being a stay-at-home mom and wife that I never asked myself, “Who is Braunwyn?” When I got older, I realized I had wanted all the wrong things.

Do you have any regrets?

It’s hard not to be positive when you have an amazing fiancée and four little kids who are so cute running around with our puppy. Do I wish I stayed in school [and] got a job? Yes. But when you have children, you can’t have regrets because you love your kids.

No remorse about doing RHOC?

[No], for one reason — without the accountability, I don’t think I would’ve stayed sober. I remember Kelly Dodd saying I was faking being an alcoholic. There were times I wanted to drink so badly but didn’t want to give her the satisfaction. I was like, “I dislike her more than I want to drink.”

Shocking Reality TV Exits

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Rife with scandal or just the right time to walk away? Stassi Schroeder, Lauren Conrad and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi are among the reality stars who left their shows in surprising fashion. Schroeder, for one, was fired from Vanderpump Rules after eight seasons alongside costar/frenemy Kristen Doute. Bravo confirmed their departures in June 2020 after their past racially […]

Have you finally found yourself?

RHOC s Braunwyn Windham Burke Is Starting Fresh After Sean Burke Divorce
Courtesy of Braunwyn Windham-Burke

I’ve found my voice. For so long, people told me to be smaller and quiet. I was put down a lot during my marriage … To find someone who fully loves you for who you are is magical.

What’s your message to other women who are struggling?

You have to take charge of your life and control your situation. If you’re going through a divorce or considering it, at the end of the day, there is freedom. There is an empowerment. And it’s going to be OK.

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