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Kathy Marshack News

Surviving Unremitting Grief While Keeping a Tough Relationship Together

Monday, January 07, 2019

Surviving Unremitting Grief When Keeping a Tough Relationship TogetherGrief has so many layers to it. For example, death, divorce, and trauma create their own special types of grief. And while there is a common process we go through, we do it at different times and stages, with differing degrees of intensity.

Some people say there are five stages of grief, while others list up to nine stages of grief. Basically they encompass these stages:

  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

If all of these stages are not fully processed and extinguished, then grief can lead to other problems. While the above mentioned circumstances are tragic and not to be minimized, there are definite ends that help you start the healing process. You can find closure, as the saying goes.

However, for some people there is no end. They’re in relationships where they choose not to seek a divorce or separation. If you’re in a committed, yet very tough relationship that produces ongoing or unremitting grief, then it becomes a real challenge to preserve your identity and sanity.

There are so many unique levels to grief when you live with loved ones on the Autism Spectrum Disorder Spectrum. Even if they’re high-functioning autistics, their brains won’t let them make the connections that create empathic feelings and behaviors. So when you continue to live with your Asperger partner, you keep triggering the loss. You feel it over and over again. This has been defined as "Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Disorder".

  • There is the grief over the lost dream of a relationship with an empathic partner.
  • There is the grief from chronic verbal abuse.
  • There is the grief of raising your children in the chaos of the relationship.
  • There is the grief of never being able to have a voice in your life.
  • There is even the grief over never being able to help your Aspie know that there is more, so much more to love and relating.

If this describes your situation, I urge you to find a support group. There are relationship survival skills that can help you cope and even thrive in these adverse conditions. Many of my books share real life vignettes of people coming to grips with this issue.

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please sign up for the low-cost video conference, “Surviving Unremitting Grief” on Thursday, January 17th at 4:00 PM PT and again on Wednesday, January 30th at 10:00 AM PT. Know that you’re not alone; that unremitting grief is a normal outcome of these very tough relationships.

No More Power Struggles in Your ASD/NT Relationship – Is It Possible?

Monday, December 31, 2018

No More Power Struggles in Your ASD/NT Relationship – Is It Possible?There’s a big difference between a relationship where two people have differences as they work as a team toward shared goals and a relationship where the couple fights to “win” and be “right”. The first relationship is marked by love, caring, trust, respect and shared values; the latter is not.

I don't have an easy answer for this question actually. In the past, I’ve written about how entrepreneurial couples can avoid power struggles at work by putting away fears and egos. Yet these suggestions for avoiding power struggles or disengaging when they start just don't seem to work with people on the ASD Spectrum. Their logical mind sees that you are “wrong” and they won't let up until they wear you down. It's as if there's a volcano inside that is overflowing and can't be stopped even when you capitulate.

Autistic power struggles are different than meltdowns. They aren't due to sensory overload or some other emotional disequilibrium that people on the Spectrum experience. Rather it’s their black and white thinking that seems to stump them. They tend to seize on a small point of disagreement and take it to the extreme.

According to a research paper entitled, “When Eros meets Autos: Marriage to someone with autism spectrum disorder” by Rench, Cathryn, Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2014, 264 pages; 3681894, their study revealed:

“Often it is the partner without AS, or neurotypical (NT), who is considered responsible for the relational distress, usually the female due to the heavily male-skewed AS diagnostic ratio of 8:1. There’s a pattern of intimate partner abuse so pervasive that it emerged as the lifestyle of the couples. The five forms of domestic violence (emotional, sexual, psychological, economic, physical) characterized the lived experience of the participants.”

Within these five areas – emotional, sexual, psychological, economic, or physical – where do you feel the biggest power struggle occurs in your marriage, partnership, or relationship? Perhaps identifying this will help you begin regaining the personal power you've given away.

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join us for the next low-cost video conference, “No More Power Struggles”. It will be held on January 3rd at 2:00 PM PT and again on January 8th at 10:00 AM PT. Let’s use this time to talk more about why our Aspies engage in power struggles, but even more important is how to protect ourselves from these difficult moments.

If the conference is full and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Don’t Be Blindsided by the Chaos in Your NT/ASD Relationship

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Chaos is exactly how the partners in an ASD/NT relationship feel. They both are utterly confused by the other person’s reactions. The NT partner is usually unprepared for the emotional devastation that can result from their Aspie’s logic. And the Aspie partner can’t understand why the NT partner is upset. Chaos is defined as a state of utter confusion. Isn’t that exactly how the partners in an ASD/NT relationship feel? They both are utterly confused by the other person’s reactions. The NT partner is usually unprepared for the emotional devastation that can result from their Aspie’s logic. And the Aspie partner can’t understand why the NT partner is upset.

For example, here is a vignette from the lives of an ASD/NT couple I counseled in the past. Of course, their names have been changed to protect their privacy. See if you can relate to their confusion…

Marilyn, a NT wife and mother of four, was very excited when her Aspie husband, Eddie, finally agreed to spend money on a family vehicle. It was a fairly luxurious van with video screens for the kids in the back seats. Marilyn was so happy.

But then Eddie told her the new van was his to drive to work since they had traded in his car. His reasoned that her car was still in good shape, and he deserved the newer van. Marilyn conceded but asked if Eddie could turn over the van at the end of the work day or on the weekends, so that she could drive the kids to soccer practice and piano lessons. Not exactly what Marilyn had had in mind, but it was an acceptable compromise.

The next weekend she decided to use the new van to run the kids to a soccer match and a birthday party. To her surprise, Marilyn discovered that Eddie had removed all of the seats except for the driver’s seat! His reason? Since it was his car and he needed lots of space to carry all of his stuff, why bother with passenger seats? Zero degrees of empathy.

Rather than capitulating, detaching or compromising when you’re confronted with this type of Empathy Dysfunction, I suggest you prepare yourself to expect it. Somehow it is comforting to me that my life with Aspies is predictably chaotic. By surrendering to the reality that they will never get me – and that I cannot be prepared for every Aspie oddity – I can let things go when they become out of control.

This is an important healing step. We can only do so much, and changing autistics is not one of our gifts or responsibilities. We can't defend against the chaos either. Just about the time we have some well deserved rest, something always flares up, doesn't it?

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, I invite you to sign up for the video conference entitled: CHAOS THEORY – Dr. Kathy’s Definition. It will be held on Tuesday, December 11th and Tuesday, December 18th. In this video conference, we’ll find out how to achieve this state of acceptance, so that we can move on to healing ourselves – not them – but the most important person in your life – YOU!

If you prefer 1:1 counseling and live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Marketers Are Using Empathy to Get Your Money

Monday, November 12, 2018

Marketers Are Using Empathy to Get Your Money | Kathy MarshackBig corporations spend huge amounts of money to collect all the data they can about your buying and browsing habits. The better they know you, the more they can tailor their marketing message to appear like they really get you, so you trust them enough to pull out your credit card and spend money on their product. Now they are actively using empathy in the creation of their marketing campaigns.

While we think of empathy as a means for deeply connecting with another person in a beneficial way, marketers are using empathy as a marketing weapon against us. A number of online article titles that I grabbed from a Google search highlight this point:

  • Empathy Is the Key To Great Marketing Campaigns - Forbes
  • 8 Genius Examples of Empathetic Content Marketing in Action - Hubspot
  • How brands are using empathy to enhance marketing - Econsultancy
  • A Brand's Guide to Empathy: Marketing's Latest Buzzword
  • Empathetic Marketing: How To Connect With Your Customers ...
  • Empathetic marketing: focus on listening to your customers - Think with Google
  • How To Do Effective Content Marketing: Use Empathy - Column Five Marketing

To further show how they are using empathy as a way to manipulate us, I stumbled across an article in The Atlantic about a recent Marketing to Moms Conference. According to them, “American mothers are estimated to make the vast majority of household purchasing decisions and collectively spend more than $2 trillion per year.” So the attendees of this conference put their thinking caps on to discover what moms worry about. They did this for the purpose of tweaking their ads to make their products appear empathic, as solutions for those specific worries.

But I wonder...would these big corporations be concerned about a mother’s worry, if they didn’t make money? I don’t think so, do you? Their empathy is driven by their own self-interest, which doesn’t sound like real empathy at all.

I’m not saying marketing your business is wrong. I do it all the time. But to call it empathy marketing is a misnomer. True empathy, what I like to call Radiant Empathy, is caring for another, without there being an expectation for reciprocity. It’s not dependent on getting something back. A person helps another just because it’s part of being a good human being, and that feels good all by itself.

As I promised a few months ago, I’m working on an online source so you can learn to enhance your Radiant Empathy skills. While it’s taking longer than expected, I should be able to roll it out within the next few months. Does that excite you? Leave me a comment on my Facebook page that you’re curious to know what it’s all about.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and would like some 1:1 time for developing Radiant Empathy skills, please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Fatigue Is Normal in ASD/NT Relationships

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Fatigue Is Normal in ASD/NT Relationships Why are you always tired? I mean, bone weary exhausted? When you live with someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, this becomes our normal state. Emotional abuse, lack of respect for boundaries, no reciprocity, fighting for a scrap of time for yourself, and many more issues all lead to a constant state of fatigue.

I’m happy to say that many NT’s in my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, are actually pretty healthy, because they’ve learned how to practice self care. (NT refers to the partner without Asperger’s Syndrome. It stands for neuro typical.) Even so, fatigue sets in. Why? It’s fatiguing because no one is really designed for the daily emotional stress that comes with living with someone who doesn’t fully understand empathy. I suspect it takes years off your life.

According to a 2017 study, “Research and insight into NT/AS relationships” by Faaas, Inc and JA Morgan BEd Grad Dip, “fatigue, resilience and (non-productive) coping were all significant predictors of partners’ anxiety and depression.” (You can read their PDF Report here.)

Interestingly, NTs are not the only ones experiencing fatigue. People with Asperger’s Syndrome also experience a great deal of fatigue, because they have to consciously process things with their intellect, as their brain doesn’t do it automatically.

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, I invite you to join the low cost video conference entitled: Fatigue Is Normal in ASD/NT Relationships. It will be help on Tuesday, November 13th and again on Tuesday, November 27th. In this video conference, we'll get serious about self care and practice boundary setting. Setting strong boundaries with our Aspies is as important as taking time out for yourself.

Would you like personalized help in developing boundaries in your relationship? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Smart and Autistic: What is Very High Functioning Autism?

Monday, November 05, 2018

Smart autistic still can't put the puzzle pieces of empathy togetherHigh-functioning autism isn’t an official medical term or diagnosis. It’s an informal one some people use when they talk about people on the ASD Spectrum. Notably, they can function independently in today’s world, yet their social skills are lacking. And even though the American Psychiatric Association grouped autism related disorders on a Spectrum, I still refer to high functioning autism as Aspergers, since that is how many of my clients first learned to identify this disorder.

Recently, I began noticing a new trend. Many of the members of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD

meetup are saying their Aspie is "very high functioning." Somehow this is a way NTs are separating their Aspie loved one from the rest of those with Asperger Syndrome. However, the definition of Asperger Syndrome is that the autistic person is "very high functioning." This is the quintessential quality that distinguishes them from other autistics.

I think the notion that our Aspies are "very high functioning" is more than a misunderstanding of the diagnosis. Rather it appears to be a way NTs seek to comprehend the chaotic, yet brilliant mind of their Aspie. Frankly, though I don't think this helps. It leaves you stuck believing your Aspie has more going for him or her than they actually do. Brilliant or not, they lack empathy. Reciprocity in the relationship is nearly non-existent. So it makes more sense to credit your Aspies for what they are good at. But they are not high functioning when it comes to relationships.

Would you like to join our discussion on this topic? If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, I invite you to join us for a free international teleconference on Thursday, November 15th. It’s entitled: Smart and Autistic.

If you prefer 1:1 counseling and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Where on the Spectrum Should Narcissism Fall?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

There are many similarities and overlaps between Asperger’s and Narcissism.Both Narcissism and Autism are on a Spectrum. Narcissism is a personality disorder that ranges from mild to severe. And on the Autism Spectrum, Asperger’s is a high functioning form of Autism. Instead of listing Narcissism and autism on separate Spectrums, should they possibly be classified on the same Spectrum? There is some merit to coming to that conclusion, especially if you’re looking at it through the lens of my Empathy Scale.

I am not alone in seeing the similarities and overlaps between Asperger’s and Narcissism. Dr. Khalid A. Mansoura proposes in an article in the Pan Arab Journal of Psychiatry that narcissistic personality may merit classification as an autistic spectrum disorder.

In her Narcissism or Asperger’s article on Psychology Today, Dr. Susan Heitler concludes, “The bottom line from my perspective is that there is often overlap between these two syndromes.”

Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen suggests that Aspies are narcissistic by the very definition of autism, which means they have Zero Degrees of Empathy, or what I call EmD-0 or Empathy Dysfunction-0. (Read more about Empathy Dysfunction in my new book “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.”)

What does differ is the motivation behind the behavior. The Aspie’s narcissism is not for the purpose of harming you, as is the case for a true dyed in the wool Narcissist. Sure, it feels the same either way, but it’s motivated differently.

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, I invite you to sign up for a low cost video conference on either Tuesday, October 30th or Tuesday, November 6th. It’s entitled: Narcissism - The Dark Side of Aspergers. We’ll be exploring the differences between these two disorders. Your Aspie may never acquire empathy, but they can learn to be polite and gracious and follow social rules. It’s not easy to change ingrained narcissistic behavior, but it is possible with Aspies.

If you’ve wasted too much of your precious life trying to accommodate an ASD narcissist, whether it’s a family member, coworker or neighbor, it’s time to seek professional support in rebuilding the life you’re meant to live. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Do You Live in the ADHD or ASD Time Zone?

Monday, October 01, 2018

Woman holding a clock signifies Many people with ADHD or Aspergers have trouble managing their time because they have trouble being present in the moment. Throughout the world, our clocks run on different time zones. And we all seem to be battling the clock. There never seems to be enough time to get everything done. People with ADHD or Aspergers find this especially challenging, because they have trouble being present in the moment. The ADHD or ASD brain can’t anticipate and plan for the future. This typically shows up in two ways:

They have a short time horizon. They can’t “see” very far into the future, so they lack motivation to act and consequently ignore deadlines. They think that since the deadline isn’t today, they don’t have to get started. Then when the deadline arrives, they’re totally taken by surprise.

They engage in time discounting. The further into the future a reward or punishment is, the less important it is. For example, they start watching TV at 9 AM and keep doing it until mom gets home at 7 PM and is mad because the room isn’t clean.

The secret to dealing with ADHD Time or ASD Time is learning to manage behaviors and choices in the present moment while keeping long-term goals in mind. When your internal clock isn’t in sync with reality, you need to use external tools and strategies that engage all of your senses. Here are a few suggestions:

Sight: Use the moving hands of old-fashioned analog clock (not digital, it’s too distracting) to emphasize the passage of time. Challenge yourself by saying, “before the minute hand get to (insert the position), I’m going to have (the amount of work) done.”

Hearing: Use audible reminders such alarms or phone notifications to remind you of your present deadline.

Touch: Set up your work environment to eliminate distractions and force yourself to get started and stay on task. Doing five minutes worth of work can lead to the next five minutes and so on…

Smell and Taste
: When you accomplish your timed task, reward yourself with a small portion of something that you especially love – like a sip of coffee, a mint, or a bite of apple. Set out another small task and tell yourself you can have another sip/bite when you finish that.

Imagination: Create a movie in your head of the worst case scenario if you don’t get it done and how that will feel. Next, imagine yourself easily accomplishing the task. Don’t make it difficult or turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy; the longer you procrastinate, the more difficult or impossible the project becomes.

Stop telling yourself these lies…

  • I have plenty of time. 
  • I can do it tomorrow. 
  • I don’t really have to do it now.
  • I work better under pressure.
  • It’s too hard. 
  • I have anxiety, I can’t do it.

While it’s important to identify emotions, such as anxiety, you can’t let those emotions become excuses. Instead, find appropriate solutions. What strategies work for you? I’d love to hear about them over on my Facebook page.

How to Keep Aspie Negative Thinking from Spoiling Your Happiness

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Learn how to keep Asperger negative thinking from rubbing off on you and spoiling your happiness.Our Aspie’s (People with Asperger’s Syndrome.) can be so negative that it’s infuriating. Do you ever feel like you don’t even want to bring up a topic of conversation, or make a simple request, because you know you’ll get a resounding “NO!”? Or you’re tired of hearing all of their “reasons” why something you’ve said is wrong or awful? Or you just can’t stand being ignored any longer?

Unfortunately, this type of interaction with your Aspie breeds negativity in you as well. Think about it. If you aren’t allowed to have a normal give-and-take in a relationship, your small negative thoughts and feelings can simmer and build unresolved stress that eventually grows into big grievances. Or perhaps your negativity has turned inwardly to depression or even physical illness.

We need better self-care than staying negative in a relationship with a negative person.

It helps to understand how your brain works around negativity. It’s naturally sensitive to negativity as way to signal your body to protect yourself. However, your amygdala doesn’t distinguish between a real threat and your negative family member. So your brain turns an inordinate amount of attention to that negative source – and your happy mood is gone.

Before dealing with a Negative Nelly, it would be good to check to see how much of your negative reactions come from your own internal issues. Identify your triggers – the things that instantly make you mad, bad, or sad. It can be what they say or how they say it. Notice if you can see any similarities between your triggers. What is the real issue - why does it makes you feel particularly defensive and uncomfortable? I’ve found that N.E.T. is very helpful for healing emotional pain.

Knowing why something happens is a lot different from knowing how to fix it. If you want to understand and intervene in these two very different aspects of negativity please join my video conference: CLEARING NEGATIVE THINKING IN ASD/NT RELATIONSHIPS, which will be held Tuesday, October 16th and Tuesday, October 23rd. Learn to stop your Aspie’s negative reactions before they get started. And learn to soothe your own heart in the face of this type of Empathy Dysfunction.

Learn more about Empathy Dysfunction: I invite you to download a free chapter from “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.”

Does Your Love Relationship Feel One-Sided? 10 Signs it Is!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My Neuro-Typical clients describe their relationships with their Autistic loved ones as feeling one-sided.

When you fell in love with your life partner, you, no doubt, had expectations that your emotional and physical needs would be met. As you got to know each other, you opened up and talked. You were on your way to building emotional intimacy. When you began a life together, you felt loved and wanted. But what do you do when your life dramatically changes on you? Is there any way to cope when you feel like you’re married to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

That’s the life many of my Neuro-Typical clients live. They often describe their relationships with their Autistic loved ones as feeling one-sided. It’s odd isn’t it that our Aspies don’t feel the same way? As long as their needs are met, they don’t seem to notice that we’re lonesome, sad, or frustrated. Worse, when we try to explain how we feel, they draw a blank look or get defensive. Once again it’s one-sided…and not in our favor.

So how do you know if you’re in a one-sided relationship?

  1. You have to initiate conversation.
  2. Your partner takes, without giving.
  3. You give up your friends for his or quit socializing altogether.
  4. You apologize for things you shouldn’t have to.
  5. You’re always soothing ruffled feathers.
  6. You justify his behavior to friends and family.
  7. You never feel peace, but you’re always walking on egg shells.
  8. You’re made to feel like you’re a burden or an afterthought.
  9. You’re loving gestures aren’t reciprocated.
  10. You feel alone.

Feeling like your relationship is one-sided doesn’t necessarily mean your partner doesn’t care about you, in his or her own way. Lack of empathy is the reason for this one-sidedness, but that reason isn’t comforting is it? Instead we need tools for interacting with our Aspies, since they aren’t wired to connect. We also need tools to keep from going crazy over these one-way relationships.

One of the necessary tools is our Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group, where you can at least connect with others who get it. Support is essential to your mental health. But there are other more direct tools too. There are ways to problem solve with your ASD loved ones, even if their default mode is one-way.

If this topic interests you, and you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD group, please make plans to attend our Video Conference: “One-Way Relationships.” It will be held on both Tuesday, October 2nd and Thursday, October 11th. Let’s explore all of your options.

If you prefer one-on-one counseling, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

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