Actors Jodie Turner-Smith and Joshua Jackson divorced in October 2023 after four years of marriage.

Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion on CNN.

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Actors Jodie Turner-Smith and Joshua Jackson divorced in October. They share a three-year-old daughter. And this week, an interview with Turner-Smith ran in the UK-based newspaper The Times, with the “Queen & Slim” actor saying about her divorce from Jackson, the former star of “Dawson’s Creek” and “Fringe”: “Sometimes things we really want to work just don’t end up working.” She added: “And that’s OK. The most important thing is that you choose what’s healthiest for you and your family and definitely your children.”

Jill Filipovic.

Turner-Smith went on to say: “There are so many different moments in our life where we look at ourselves and say, ‘Who am I and am I being true to that?’ If the answer is no, then you have to make a move because I believe that there are visible scars from staying in places that are not good for us. And they don’t just affect us, they affect everybody around us.” She also noted that “At the end of the day I am not the only person in the world going through a divorce. There are millions of people in the world who are going through what I’m going through.”

She’s right. Her emphasis on a healthy mindset around making the decision to divorce, coupled with the absence of shame in her words, make an important point, and her celebrity status will hopefully amplify her message to a wider audience in desperate need of hearing it.

In the United States, divorce is both common and stigmatized. Close to 40% of marriages end in divorce — a proportion that has dropped significantly over the last four decades — but too many Americans still see divorce as a failure and cause for shame, which is why Turner-Smith’s comments about her own experience are so refreshing and important.

As a society, we of course don’t want to incentivize divorce, which can be painful, disruptive and expensive. But we could also put policies and social norms into place that would both decrease the risk of divorce and the stigma around it — making the end of a marriage about something other than failure. Because the truth is, divorce often isn’t a failure; instead, it can be a hard-won transition, not a “no” to one’s marriage but an acknowledgement that the marriage came to an appropriate end, and a “yes” to life beyond it.

When I look around at my own cohort (I’m an elder Millennial), every person I know who has divorced wound up better off: happier, freer, more themselves. None of their divorces were easy or entered into flippantly, and each left its scars. But when I look at my divorced friends and acquaintances, what I see are people who had the courage to take a big leap into a potentially lonely unknown, did the slow and excruciating work of reestablishing an independent identity and who came out the other side wiser and steadier — who decided that their one too-brief life could not and would not be spent forcing a relationship that was better closed down and left in the past.

I suspect this is partly generational. Historically, divorce has been especially brutal on women, who often wind up poorer in its aftermath and are at a particular disadvantage in retirement, in large part because women have historically been more likely to drop out of the workforce or scale back when they have children — and even if women do work, the gender pay gap often means that women have lower income, less in retirement savings and more meager Social Security benefits. Women who divorce later in life may be the worst off.

But divorce has also been a lifeline for women trapped in abusive or simply deeply unhappy marriages. As more women work for pay, and as the gender pay gap (slowly) closes, the divorce penalty for women will decrease as well — one of many reasons it’s wise for women to have their own incomes, and for legislators to push for wage increases and equal pay legislation. And as society broadly and marriages specifically become more equal, divorce may become more egalitarian as well — and likely less common.

Close to 40% of marriages end in divorce, and too many Americans are seeing it as cause for shame.

A more feminist understanding of marriage as a voluntary union between two self-sufficient equals — and binding an educated, independent wife to a husband seeking to be a partner and not a patriarch — makes for longer-lasting and more stable marriages, research shows. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the highest divorce rates are found in conservative states where the average age of first marriage is low and gender inequity widespread, while liberal states see citizens marrying later, and also enjoy lower rates of marital disunion and higher rates of gender equality. (The one major exception to this is heavily-Mormon Utah, a state with unique religious and cultural norms that simply aren’t replicable nationwide).

The red-blue divorce divide is an important reminder that more feminist policies could improve married life. Giving more American adults the tools to achieve financial stability and independence, expanding educational opportunities and moving closer to gender parity and further away from traditional gender expectations would go a very long way to making them both more marriageable and less divorce-prone. And decreasing the stigma of divorce could, perhaps paradoxically, make the divorces that do happen far less awful for all those involved, especially children.

Instead, many conservatives who bill themselves as pro-marriage continue to push gender traditionalism, early marriage and other failed strategies. Worse, some in conservative states such as Texas and Louisiana are targeting no-fault divorce. None of these measures or approaches will lengthen marriages; all of them will further stigmatize divorce, which makes both being married and deciding to uncouple more of a toxic process.

That’s because stigma fuels shame, and while some of the behaviors that can hasten divorce — infidelity, abuse, mistreating or neglecting a partner — might be cause for shame, divorce itself isn’t.  When people feel ashamed, we are not typically our most generous or rational. Shame fosters anxiety and self-loathing, making us less inclined to make attempts at repair in our relationships and less likely to be thoughtful in how we dissolve them.

That mindset matters, because so much of the damage that can happen during divorce — for the couple, any children they have and their family and friends — stems from the emotionally fraught process of dividing two lives that had once been joined.   But it’s a process that can be made easier if both parties are able to bring their calmest, most rational selves to the negotiating table.

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And that is made easier if neither party feels like suddenly they’re on the brink of tipping into poverty, or consumed by shame and self-loathing. A cultural and policy landscape that says, to borrow from Turner-Smith, “Sometimes things we really want to work just don’t end up working. And that’s OK. The most important thing is that you choose what’s healthiest for you and your family and definitely your children” is a cultural and policy landscape that would allow divorcing couples to see their disunion as one of life’s many difficult but necessary and even noble transitions, and would ensure that individuals, no matter their marital status, had the basic resources for health and stability.

No one should fear losing their health insurance, retirement savings or ability to provide a home for their children because their marriage ends — and yet that’s exactly the reality many divorcing people face, compounded by what is often wholly unearned shame at the dissolution.

We could have better, fairer, less traumatic divorces. Part of that requires policy changes around health care, gender equality and support for the poor and aging. And part of it requires a social and cultural shift away from seeing divorce as a failure and toward seeing it as, in many relationships, a dignified and conclusion to what is just one chapter of a big, complicated and often wonderful story.