real life

So, you find out that your husband of 17 years is gay. What next?

Jill and Jeff Smokler had been married for 17 years, having met over two decades ago as teenagers. They were soulmates, parents of three young kids, and are both writers. Jill started the hugely popular ‘Scary Mommy’ blog in 2008, and used it last week to announce some very surprising news: Jeff is gay.

The Saturday before the Scary Mommy blog post, Jill took to her personal Facebook to tell her followers that she was getting a divorce. Kind, understanding, and forgiving; Jill said that she knew about Jeff’s sexuality for some time.

“Without getting into too much personal detail, this is a reality which we have faced together for many years,” wrote Jill.

“And for a very long time, the deep love we had for one another sustained us through the more difficult moments that our increasingly diverging sexuality created.”

my husband came out as gay
Jill Smokler. Source: Facebook.

Her fans were naturally shocked, and leapt to her defence. But it was Jeff himself that wrote on the Scary Mommy blog to discuss with their loyal readers the reason for the divorce.

“I’ve gotten a lot of questions over the last several weeks — but especially since Saturday — and I understand the curiosity,” said Jeff.

“Frankly, I’m grateful for it, because it gives me the chance to articulate thoughts and emotions that need a reckoning every now and again.”

The blog post, titled ‘When Love Isn’t Enough’, is a heartbreaking insight to the struggle Jeff experienced in coming to terms with his sexuality, and the effect it would have on his young family.

Listen: Gay parenting campaigner Jacqui Tomlins says we need to call out when people use the term "That's gay".

“It’s been four or five years since I knew I was gay,” writes Jeff.

“Of course I always knew I was different, but when you meet your soulmate when you’re 18 years old — only five years older than my own daughter is now — and that person is a woman, you simply think 'thank God then, I can’t be gay'."

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Fast forward to today, and Jeff and Jill are living separately, but remaining united as parents to  Lily, 9, Ben, 7 and Evan, 5. Jeff describes the surreal - albeit funny - situation of running into each other in Target as they shopped for homewares....for their new houses.

“Today, Jill and I ran into each other at Target, shopping for things for our respective homes. We laughed out loud and hugged. I hated the decorative pillow she placed in her shopping cart, and I’m quite sure she thought the vase I was gripping was hideous.”

And yet, for all of the potential awkwardness and hurt that the situation could bring, Jill and Jeff have found a great happiness in confronting the truth.

“As we walked out of Target and toward our cars, a million pounds lighter from the disclosure of our truth, Jill locked her arm in mine. A couple steps out of the store, she turned to me and asked, 'Are you as happy as I am?'”

“And I was."

The responses to both Jill’s Facebook post and Jeff’s blog have been overwhelmingly positive, with many offering their support to both.

“Best of luck to you and your family in this time of transition,” wrote one user. “I know your kids will be confused at first, but the love and dedication from you and their dad will see them through.”

my husband came out as gay
Jeff Smokler. Source: Facebook.

“Congratulations... for having the courage to wrap up this chapter and start the next.” wrote another.

As more and more high-profile couples take the road less travelled in their divorce, it gives hope to the other men and women in the world trying to navigate their own heartbreak.

And as Jeff and Jill Smokler have shown with such class, starting again doesn’t have to be about endings, but beginnings.