What MASH Did Not Teach Me About Marriage


Feb_MeganIn grade school, I spent a lot of time on the bus.

A big hulking yellow machine that wheezed up hills and backed into a telephone pole once. I can still remember the musty smell and the thin olive green plastic that wrapped around the metal benches.

This was before the age of cell phones, so extra hours on the bus were not spent playing Angry Birds or snapping infinite selfies.

We mainly played MASH.

To play, we would scrawl MASH at the top of a blank page and then select a few intriguing categories. We typically settled on: Married To, Car, # of Kids, Vacation, and Career.

My friend and I would scrunch down, knees up on the raw metal in front of us, giggling as we filled in a handful of enticing and horrifying options under each category. Married To would include a select few from our class, usually one or two I liked, and a few awkward ones my friend would throw in to torment me (giggles). # of Kids would include 1 and 2 and 67 (more giggles). Vacation choices featured the glamorous—England—and the not so glamorous—Alberta—options. I’m sure you’re catching on now.

The letters in MASH stood for: Mansion, Apartment, Shack & House, indicating the home I would live in. Obviously, Mansion was the goal. House was acceptable. No one wanted Apartment or Shack.

My friend would make a bunch of ticks on the paper, I would tell her when to stop, and that would be the magic number by which options were eliminated from my future. I would groan when the cute boy got crossed off or when Bermuda was out. Inevitably, I would end up with something like this:

Megan gets married to Jordan and lives in a shack with fifty kids, a Ferrari, vacations in Timbuktu, and is employed as a ditch digger. *Insert wild shrieking.*

And that was my future. Compartmentalized into five easy categories.

If 11-year-old Megan saw my current list, I can’t say she’d be too impressed:

Megan got married to Ryan and lives in a townhouse with one son, two Pathfinders, vacations sporadically, and is employed primarily as Mom.

I thought those categories made up a life. But it turns out they were merely a highlight reel. They say nothing of day in and day out that is making a marriage work. In between finding the boy and having the kids and the odd getaway, there is a heck of a lot more going on than MASH ever led me to believe.

My husband and I are different. And not the cute different, like Jim and Pam, where it all wraps up in twenty minutes with an endearing smirk and a prank on Dwight. The hard different. This May, we’ve been married ten years.

It’s been our toughest year yet.

My father-in-law passed away last March. Three weeks later, my husband left for his dream job. He was away most of the summer. I was sorely tempted to stew in a pit of grief and self-pity, but my German survival roots kicked in. Plus, I learned that 16-month-olds aren’t really into Mommy wallowing in week-long pity parties.

So I kept it together.

But I was alone.

I was warned it would be difficult when he came home. We had been apart for months, a challenge for any relationship. But when coupled with the 24/7 togetherness we were thrown into upon his return? It might as well have been an engraved invitation to crazy town.

So yes, I would say it was difficult. Difficult in the way I imagine summiting Everest is difficult. Difficult in the way I know eating just half a chocolate bar is difficult.

Just a bit of an understatement.

Goodness, we fought. I had grown quite comfortable having all the say in how I spent my days, how my son was raised and what I said “yes” to. I dug my heels in, asserted my independence and laid the guilt on as thick as the soupy fog hovering over the valley that fall. I took on projects that ate up all my free time, leaving us completely disconnected. We are not a couple that naturally has oodles in common; when there is no effort put in, it goes to pieces.

It was remarkably easy to go through the motions, to ignore the lingering feelings of grief, to pretend as if we hadn’t been apart for months, to simply get on and continue to pursue the all-important aspects of MASH: kids, cars, house, career etc.

I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took. But, thankfully, I eventually turned off my inherently stubborn autopilot and reluctantly turned my focus from everything that was *more* important.

*More* essential.

And looked at the boy.

The boy I am in this with. The one I chose to be in this with. The one who promised to muddle through all my stuff. The one who I promised to muddle through all his stuff with.

And I started from there.

I wish people would talk about it more. About this day in and day out crazy hard thing that is committing to a life spent with another human. I’d like to be able to talk about it without getting sad eyes or a copy of Love & Respect.

I feel as though the posts I read about marriage all end in a slow dance or a heartfelt apology punctuated with a meaningful Scripture reference. And that is just lovely, but there are couples out there who go to bed angry sometimes (Heavens! Even Christian people!). And I’d like to know I’m not alone.

So that’s why I’m pulling back the curtain a bit. Away from the highlight reel that is MASH. Away from the Facebook stream that plays out exactly like my old childhood game: kids, vacation, career and house. Because though I love my husband more than anything, marriage is damned hard sometimes.

And that’s OK. It’s actually irritatingly normal.

I’m ever-so-slowly learning that when it gets damned hard, it’s time to take a time out from MASH. Take a look at the boy. And just stay there a while.

Megan Gahan
After over a decade in the fitness industry, Megan now spends her days chasing two pint-sized tornadoes disguised as little boys. By night, she is a writer and editor for SheLoves. A proper Canadian, Megan can often be found in the woods or at Tim Hortons. She writes at megangahan.com.
Megan Gahan
Megan Gahan

Latest posts by Megan Gahan (see all)

Megan Gahan
  • You are not alone! It’s been 32 years for us and sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s damned hard. Yes, we do go to bed angry sometimes. Well, he goes to bed and I sit here at 2:33 am and stew over it!!

    Damned hard, but damned worth it as well! Thanks for the reminder to take a look at the boy…

    • Megan Gahan

      Oh, I’m a stewer too Carol! I like resolution but sometimes 2 am conversations don’t go so well for us! So appreciate your affirmation 🙂 Thank you

  • Caiobhe

    I too am trying to pull back the curtain on this . I’ve started blogging in an effort to do so. It is so hard, and I’ve been just where you are, and further along in the wrong direction too. Unspeakably difficult is how I’d describe it, and so easy to forget why you’re in it with him! Enjoy the standing back for a while. If you want to read my thoughts I’m over at caiobhesblog.wordpress.com

    • Megan Gahan

      So thrilled that you’re writing about this as well. I was petrified to talk about the not-so-shiny parts of marriage, but felt convicted that we desperately need more honesty in this area. Glad I’m in it with someone! Thanks so much for reading

  • Amy Hunt

    Oh girl! God has been working this in me for the past while and I am SO with you on this. He asked me to stay when everything in me has wanted to run or to leap head first to the dreams I believe He has for me whether my groom is with me or not. He wants unity in my marriage first and foremost. And hardest of all, he wants me to be willing to die to comfort. When it gets uncomfortable because of the differences in our personalities or because of our selfish wants that reflect themselves in our controlling nature or our fears, He wants me to stay. He wants this of me first, before I step into any dream or vision He gives me. He wants me to be willing to be patient for that and to pursue what’s before me in the groom He gave me. He wants me to see HIM through my marriage and to trust that He purposes our messy selves to reflect His glory THROUGH our willingness to STAY and DO THE WORK of togetherness and companionship and forgiveness and grace-giving love; the HARD work. And it IS SUPER hard! That we’re still together is nothing short of a miracle, I know this.

    I have a DEEP, DEEP, DEEP passion to look people face-to-face with my hands on their shoulders and my eyes in their eyes and say, “let’s be real together. let’s be honest. this is hard stuff. the everyday life demands everything of ourselves. let’s stop with the pretty and glitter and call it what it is. let’s lay it all out on the table and share how we’re wrecked each day by our own humanity and the humanity of our life partner. let’s persevere in our trust that He has led us here and that He says our fighting for this companionship is important and that the struggles we endure each day are not meaningless. let’s get on with it and do the every day in spite of our feelings and fears.”

    I am SO, SO, SO with you. Let’s call it what it is.

    (In fact, I wrote a post this week that speaks to a new kind of vow that He’s inspired me to inspire in others: http://arock4him.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-new-kind-of-vow-as-we-are.html)

    Rich blessings as He continues to lead you and inspire you. May your marriage be ever more deeply cultivated so that the rich soil surfaces and beauty blooms. Of course, this means digging will be required and so I pray for a greater willingness of patience and trust within you. Amen.

    • Megan Gahan

      Such beautiful thoughts here Amy. When we brush away all that flimsy glitter, we get to the real and gritty don’t we? It’s not as pretty, but it’s so much more important and meaningful and, well, real. So appreciate your always insightful comments. Much love to you, my dear.

  • The good old years of MASH – I remember them fondly, but I can honestly say that living in the years of “choosing” instead of the years of random numbers is a huge relief. I’m not married, but reading posts like this is encouraging because it reminds me that good choices don’t always mean perfection.

    • Megan Gahan

      I LOVE what you said about good choices not meaning perfection. I’m going to get you to sum up my posts from now on! 😉 Thanks so much for reading Catherine.

  • Anne-Marie

    Megan thanks for peeling back the veneer. We started pretty dreamy then hit some awful external challenges that just didn’t let up. For years. And became *that* couple arguing in front of everyone. So glad we stuck it through as things are much better now. A different good that has some dings and bumps. But good.

    • Megan Gahan

      It’s that ‘different good’ that doesn’t seem to get talked about much. There’s always an abundance about the ‘shiny good’, but the dings and bumps aren’t as glamorous apparently. Thank you for sharing a piece of your marriage journey, and taking the time to read and comment on my post. I so appreciate it.

  • HBurns

    Once again you have brought truth, vulnerability and a beautiful invitation to us all. Your truth resonates deeply with so many of us. I know my best days began when I peeled back the veneer and said ‘Help’. I soon discovered that we all have ‘stuff’ that we are going through and we are so much better when we navigate our often precarious journeys together.

    I adore you Megan, and celebrate you and the 10 years you have sown into a life together with the ‘Boy”… the best is yet to come. Promise xoxo

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank you so much Helen. I feel as though I have you and John to thank for my ability to be vulnerable in this area, having heard you both be vulnerable time and time again in regards to marriage and relationships. I also sense that the best is yet to come, and I am so excited for it. I so appreciate your support and love – this was incredibly tough for me to write about. I have no idea how you manage to speak about so often. Love you dearly!

  • Celeste Wyatt Lee

    Thank you! For pulling back the curtain. Having been married for 30 years, then alone several years and now in a relationship, this applies to more than just the “boy”. There were other categories on your list than “married to”, and I find that all the categories get tough. I have been in bad places with each category, although the “married to” obviously has huge implications. I am reading Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” about vulnerability and shame. She says that putting words around shame takes its legs out from under it. I agree. So thank you for putting words to what I feel has much to do with shame…. shame that I’m the only one…… (insert whatever from all your categories).

    • Megan Gahan

      I read “Daring Greatly” a few months back and gained so much from it. Shame has definitely been a big issue for me in terms of holding back what I’m really going through. But each time I let a little bit of vulnerability out, I realize the same thing: I’m not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone. So thankful you took the time to share a bit of what you’ve been learning in this space.

  • I wish people would talk about it more, and all the other stuff too. This is what makes a writer. And you my dear are a fine one. Vulnerability makes the world go ’round! Thank you for this.

    • Megan Gahan

      In full agreement on ‘all the other stuff’! Let’s just get it all out there! The only reason I’m able to talk about any of this is because I’m part of this glorious SheLoves team, who put their vulnerability on the line each month – you included my dear. Thanks so much for reading, and taking the time to encourage.

  • pastordt

    Well, crap, yes! 48 years and we still get the nasties, the moodies, the I’m-tired-of-you-right-now-so-please-stay-in-the-other-room days/weekends. . . Marriage is hard. And amazing. Fulfilling and frustrating, A stark reminder that we’re all bruised and battered on the inside and sometimes it leaks out. And long separations? I can’t even imagine it. For ten years, we were separated for three days a week – and that weekly re-entry was hard enough. I can’t imagine yours. So no, you are not alone, Megan. Truly.

    • Megan Gahan

      I started laughing the second I read “Well, crap. . .” You’re just the best. And 48 years in, I’d say you know what you’re talking about! Your perspective is insightful and refreshing as always, and gives me a world of hope. Thank you so much 🙂

  • THANK YOU so much for being vulnerable and real. I’m 1.5 years in and this has encouraged me SO much.

    • Megan Gahan

      I can’t tell you how much that means Laura. Thank you. I remember 1.5 years in – some lovely times but some oh-so-excruciating times. Hang in there. It gets better.

    • Megan Gahan

      I can’t tell you how much that means Laura. Thank you so much. I remember 1.5 years in – some lovely times, but some oh-so-excruciating times as well. It gets oodles better.

  • Me too, me too!! We did 4 months apart while I waited for my US visa but we didn’t know as the time was passing how long it was going to take. And my husband and I are also SO different and barely spoke in that time while he started his job, and found us a house and I packed up and single parented two small children….Then when I finally made it to the USA I had culture shock and total exhaustion to deal with – very un-fun times. Two years later we are doing much better, but facing more change which is daunting. God bless your home and your little family 🙂

    • Megan Gahan

      Whew, that is a LOT going on. With the move and the kids . . I could take some notes from you! Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey. It’s a huge encouragement to me and, I’m sure, to so many other readers. Blessings on you and your family as well.

  • loved ALL of this. thank you. I needed it 🙂

    • Megan Gahan

      You are more than welcome Jenna! Thanks so much for reading.

  • cjdeboer

    Thank you for putting your heart on the line and sharing about your marriage, friend. It’s hard to be honest about those messy parts that are so real but never show up on Facebook. Thank you for your honesty and allowing others to see that marriage IS a hard slog at times – but for also allowing us to see that through those times we become stronger. LOVE your words and you. xoxoxx

    • Megan Gahan

      I love your word ‘slog’ in reference to marriage, because it really is very appropriate isn’t it? Thank you for standing with me, like you always do, and giving me the green light to put myself ALL out there. You’re the best. Love you so much.

  • Erica

    THANK YOU for being vulnerable, writing and sharing this. And you nailed it – MASH = Social media these days! Something that seems so harmless can be so toxic to us who are struggling, assuming everyone else has it together while we crumble on the kitchen floor. We just came out of our toughest 6 months yet (will be married 8 years in June) It was time to stop being so passive aggressive and bring out the ugly so the real could come out. I am sure it won’t be our last and hopefully dealing with it this time will help us be more proactive in the future. This and all your writing is so encouraging, real and refreshing! THANK YOU! (ps. my BIL is away from his family a lot and he read a book about how to combat the challenges it brings. Apparently for every week the spouse/parent is gone, it can take 2 wks to have them fit back into the routine. Pretty tough for so many people who are hardly home a week before they are gone again!)

    • Megan Gahan

      Erica, I love how you described having to bring out the ugly so the real could come out. Soooo true. Good for you guys. And I think your brother-in-law has those figures right on. At least I’m going to vouch for them! So appreciate you joining this conversation.

  • Bev Murrill

    I laughed and sighed when I read this. Especially the bit about being the ‘hard’ different. Rick and I fit into that category too. Outside of the fact that we’ve been together FORTY SIX years (since I was 16) and that we have four great kids in common, and leading churches together, we have NOTHING in common. I’m a reader and a writer, he’s…. not. He loves building and constructing in perfect precision, I’m ‘near enough is good enough’. I want to ride bikes or do some exercise, he doesn’t. We don’t even like the same FOOD! or movies!

    So that’s why I laughed and sighed. There’s a book out called something like ‘What if marriage isn’t to make you happy, but to make you holy?’…. I haven’t read it, but it sounds like the writer knows what we’re talking about!

    Sounds like you guys have got what it takes to make the perfect marriage… you, him and …. God… the other cord in the three fold rope! Hang in there, you’re doing great! (generally speaking! xx)

    • Megan Gahan

      Oh goodness. Ry (in addition to being a pilot) is also a builder. Too funny! I have to say how encouraging it is to hear from so many other ‘hard’ different couples. It’s easy to feel isolated in your partnership, but everyone else is slogging it out too aren’t they (borrowed the ‘slogging’ from Claire!)? So appreciate your thoughts and wisdom here Bev. It has brought me more encouragement than you know. Thank you friend 🙂

  • Sidenote: Did you ever play the extended version, MARSHBOPIT (Mansion, apartment, ranch, shack, house, beach house, outhouse, palace, igloo, tent)? Ah, the good old days! 🙂

  • nancy Alfred

    A couple of weeks ago I was in a dark period in my life, the man I love to bits had gone off with someone else, that was when I was told about this Esango Priest. Well he told me he could see that we would get back together that gave me hope, and he was right, because this week we have moved in with each other and we are so happy. A big thank you to Esango Priest. If you are in need of an angel please get in touch with my Esango Priest via email:esangopriest@gmail.com, esangopriest@hotmail.com and you can also reach me on http://www.esangopriestspelltemple.webs.com