"We spent 45 minutes on the phone the other night talking about men," Jill Smokler tells PEOPLE

By Erin Hill
March 23, 2017 07:59 AM

Three months ago, Jill and Jeff Smokler decided to officially separate after 17 years of marriage. The news came as a shock to Jill’s 15 million readers on Scary Mommy — her popular parenting website — as she not only revealed that the couple is divorcing but that the catalyst for their split is the fact that Jeff is gay.

And after keeping Jeff’s questions about his sexuality a secret for 15 years, the couple, who lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with their three children, says they are relieved that the truth is finally out.

“I knew the impact that keeping this for the past 15 years was having on me,” Jill tells PEOPLE. “When you’re talking to your girlfriends about details of your marriage, there was so much that I couldn’t and didn’t talk about it. So I’m looking forward to deepening and strengthening relationships of my own.”

Courtesy Jill and Jeff Smokler

Jill admits she’s also looking forward to dating.

“That’s fun and exciting,” she says. “Jeff and I have been together since we were 18, so that’s a whole new ballgame.”

And they are approaching their new lives with the same closeness they’ve always shared.

“We spent 45 minutes on the phone the other night talking about men,” Jill says. “Men that Jeff’s interested in and men that I’m interested in, and it felt oddly normal.

“I look forward to meeting whomever Jeff ends up because I assume I will like that person because I love Jeff. We have the same sense of humor and sensibilities and are drawn to the same people. I can’t imagine there being any animosity or awkwardness because I can’t see him ending up with someone I wouldn’t like.”

Jeff and Jill Smokler
Courtesy Jill and Jeff Smokler

Adds Jeff, “As non-conforming as I think our marriage was, I think our divorce is equally non-conforming. We want to show folks that you can do divorce in a way that not just puts your children first, but can come from a place of love.

“I’ve got a long time ahead of me to explore and figure out what it means to have this side of me be front and center. But I think I’m going to be a much happier person.”

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