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Survivor

EXCLUSIVE: Sam Gash and Mark Wales’ marriage is stronger than ever after Survivor return

''We’ve been by each other’s side since we met.''

By Wade Sellers
Samantha Gash and Mark Wales thought Australian Survivor was behind them.
Having fallen in love during the 2017 season of the reality TV series, they had moved on with their lives by getting married and having a son, Harry, now three. Life was good!
"We've been pretty much by each other's side since we met," says Sam. "We're a partnership in everything.
"We both run our own businesses and pursue independent goals, but we have the backing of each other to do it. We have a foundation of family and love and connection."
Adds Mark, "Our values are pretty similar. We both like to work hard, we both love our friends and family."
"We both run our own businesses and pursue independent goals." (Image: Woman's Day)
When the couple were invited to return to play in this year's Blood V Water season, however, it was too good an offer to refuse.
"If it wasn't for Survivor, I wouldn't have this life," says Sam. "This game means a lot to us – it's why we're passionate about it."
That's not to say there weren't major considerations – most significantly, leaving Harry behind with Sam's family.
"The first thing was excitement, the second thing was can we actually logistically and mentally do this, because we'll both be away from Harry," she says.
Mark agrees, adding, "Being separated from Harry was a big one for us and it really consolidated my resolve to want to play hard. Let's do our best."
The couple see their Survivor journey like a job. (Image: Woman's Day)
Indeed, the couple were adamant that if they were going to up-end their family, it had to count, and they hoped to make up for both being eliminated relatively early in their original season.
"We put so much preparation into giving ourselves the best chance to have that redemption story," Sam explains.
"We thought, 'Let's give this everything we have.' We treated it like work."
The fact that both Sam, 37, and Mark, 42, were determined to play strong games meant they didn't always see eye to eye on strategy.
"We're husband and wife, but we're also very different people," says Sam.
"You're also not constantly reinforcing to your tribemates that your relationship is paramount. (Image: Woman's Day)
"Coming into the merge I was like, 'Our vision of how to get to the end is significantly different based on the people we want to keep around. One of us is going to have to yield.' And what you see is us having pretty heated conversations."
"I think the fact that we were arguing about it meant we both had pretty strong individual games," says Mark.
"But I was thinking, 'It's actually not a bad thing if people think we're not on the same page.'"
The same can be said for that pivotal moment during tribe swap when Mark chose to join a different tribe instead of being reunited with his wife.
"It was emotionally tricky, because I did want to be with Sam," says Mark.
"But Sam and I had talked about it and our aim was to stay separate as long as possible. It means you're covering more of the tribe, you're getting more intelligence, you're building more trust."
Adds Sam, "You're also not constantly reinforcing to your tribemates that your relationship is paramount. Of course it is, but perception is a lot.
"When Mark chose not to be with me, the response where I was shocked was genuine, but it probably took 30 seconds before I realised, 'Oh, we've planned this.'"
While it remains to be seen how far Mark and Sam's premeditated strategy will allow them to progress in the game, they both agree the experience has only solidified what they have as a couple.
"We've shared another experience – one that is incredibly immersive and raw – and we got to do it side by side," says Sam.
"Every time you put yourself into that scenario with your loved one, you do build a deeper connection."

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