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Kathy Marshack News

Does Contempt Signal the End of a Marriage or Committed Relationship?

Monday, June 05, 2017


Does Contempt Signal the End of a Marriage or Committed Relationship Do you agree with John Gottman, Ph.D. and author of "Seven Principles that Make Marriage Work"? He tells us that once a couple has descended to the level of contempt for each other, the marriage is irretrievable. I don’t totally agree with his assessment, especially since I’ve been working with so many couples who are dealing with Asperger’s in their marriage or committed relationships.

Contempt is a very strong emotion – the feeling that a person is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn. Generally, one doesn’t get to that emotion over night. It usually takes a gradually erosion of respect. (Unless there has been one particularly horrific act that destroys all respect and love. Certainly when the love is gone it probably makes no sense to try anymore.) Yet, there are ways to reverse the erosion and rebuild your relationship.

As awful as is contempt, it actually comes fairly quickly in ASD/NT relationships. Why is that? My theory is that the Aspie doesn’t have empathy, so they may resort to saying pretty awful things to their partner, but contempt is not on their mind. NTs on the other hand take these unkind comments as contemptuous. Sometimes we build up resentment, too, and then our Aspies are puzzled by our anger. Such a crazy, painful, mixed up situation.

If you’re feeling contempt, or you believe your Aspie does, we need to talk. This is no way to live. Contempt, like passive-aggressive behavior is a counter-productive solution. We need ways to be open about our feelings, respectful of our differences, forgiving of others, and expecting forgiveness from our loved ones.

This last one is important isn't it? I sure would like forgiveness if I get frustrated with my Aspie loved ones, or really lose my cool and yell or withdraw. We’re only human and contemptuous comments are hurtful.

If you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, I invite you to please join us for our free teleconference: Cleaning Up Contempt on Thursday, June 15th at 3:00 PM PT. Let’s get these feelings out in the open and figure out how our words and actions can help us cope.

Also, if you haven’t read my book, “Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”, you can get your first chapter free by clicking here. This book has become an important resource for those who want to understand their Aspie partners better.

Muffled Love – Why Aspie Love Is Different

Monday, May 08, 2017


I’ve often been criticized for saying Aspies lack empathy; perhaps another way to consider Aspie love is that it’s muffled – they feel but can’t express it.One morning I was trying to fathom how Aspies love. I’ve often been criticized that I’m wrong to say that those with ASD lack empathy. Perhaps another way to consider Aspie love is that it’s "muffled;" filtered through a system of fits and starts and blind alleys and occasionally smooth sailing.

Empathy is far more than a collection of sensitivities. For example, the human body is 90% water with some chemicals mixed in, but I doubt that anyone would think this concoction of water and chemicals constitutes a human being. The same is true of empathy. Empathy is much more than the sum of its parts. Empathy is a marvelous symphony of instruments, musicians, composer, conductor and audience. It’s an interaction that creates the thrill of the concert. Just the same with love; it’s the interaction that makes it the art of loving.

I suspect what is so confusing about an Aspie's love is that it’s not complete. They may feel love in their heart, but never express it to you. They may melt into tears when they see an animal in distress, but have no compassion for your suffering. They may bristle with defensiveness if criticized but feel no compunction when criticizing you. The occasional offering of love stalled by a moment of disconnect is not loving, is it?

I’ve known enough Aspies to realize that they do feel love, of a sort, but it isn’t the reciprocal love we expect and have with others. The love is there inside them but it’s hidden by those blind alleys, so we have to assume it’s there. How confusing.

If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please join us as we discuss this topic during our next free teleconference entitled: Muffled Love. It will be on Thursday, May 18th at 3PM PT. If you’re a NT in an Aspie/NT relationship and haven’t joined yet, please feel free to do so. Not only will you learn a lot, but you’ll find a group of very supportive members who understand what you’re going through.

If you’d prefer a one-on-one with me to ask questions, please take advantage of my Asperger Syndrome Remote Education. It’s not therapy, but it will help you have a deeper understanding of how Autism impacts your life. Not sure what we can talk about? Reading a free chapter from my book, “Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”, will give you a place to start. Click on the image below to download your complimentary copy.

3 Tools to Help Psychotherapists Understand the Impact Asperger’s Has on the Whole Family

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


If you’ve tried psychotherapy for your ASD/NT relationship and it didn’t work, don’t despair, because with further education and the right approach it can.It was a relief to Mandy (not a real person, but her story illustrates the life many of you live) to have finally found the reason for her husband’s puzzling and hurtful behavior during their 23 years of marriage. She knew he loved her in his own way, and he didn’t intentionally want to distress her. He just didn’t seem to know how to show love like he ought to. His diagnosis of a high functioning form of ASD, called Asperger’s Syndrome, explained a lot.

But over the last year, she’s discovered that there is a big gap between understanding why he does something and finding ways to cope with it. She and Brian had tried couples counseling. And while she and the therapist quickly connected, Brian sat there staring out the window.

Mandy had found a very good therapist, (I wasn’t so lucky when I was searching for help with my daughter!) but the therapist hasn’t specialized in how ASD impacts a marriage, family dynamics or parenting children. Psychotherapy that works for neuro-typicals doesn’t work for those who have the mind blindness of Asperger’s. While there are many caring, intelligent, trustworthy psychologists and social workers who want to help, they need education. And often for families with ASD as part of the mix, it rests on you to educate your therapist.

Remember you’re forming a working partnership with your therapist. You’re on the same side, so don’t feel intimidated. When you keep your appointment with your therapist, provide him or her with the following tools:

First, be brave and don't let them talk you out of what you know to be true about your relationship.

Secondly, encourage them to read books on Asperger/Neuro-Typical Relationships. I have two books on this topic, plus there are others available. A good therapist is open to learning more. They want to expand their consciousness; so help them do that.

Third, suggest they get consultation from an expert. Invite them to join my new Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Continuing Education for Psychotherapists.

Aspies can benefit from psychotherapy. However, they need coaching more than therapy because of their lack of empathy, theory of mind and insight. But there are ways to get our Aspies on board for therapy! We’ll be talking about the how to do it at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD video conference. It’s entitled: “Why psychotherapy doesn't work and what to do about it”. It will be held on Thursday, March 9th at 9:00 AM. There are only limited spaces on this call, so register your spot soon.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you need some 1-on-1 with me to discuss your situation privately, please feel free to contact my office and we’ll schedule an appointment to discuss ways to improve your situation.


What Happens When There are Two Entrepreneurs in the Family?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Couple sitting in bed looking at their laptopsYou run your own business. Years of blood, sweat, and tears have resulted in a successful business enterprise. Yes, it's challenging but you love it. But how about when your partner is an entrepreneur as well – with their own business? It’s a blessing and a curse.
 
It’s a blessing because you have a lot in common. It’s a curse because you have a lot in common!
 
Dual-entrepreneur families are unlike other types of entrepreneurial families. “Solo-entrepreneurs” own and manage a business. They could have a supportive partner who helps out with the business part-time, or offers support in other ways. “Co-preneurs” are partners who both own and manage a joint business venture. “Dual-entrepreneurs” own and manage separate businesses.
 
Why is this distinction important? Being an entrepreneur, and living with an entrepreneur, are both difficult, but for entirely different reasons. When both partners in a relationship run their own separate businesses, they each experience the full effect of both their own entrepreneurship and living with another person’s entrepreneurial spirit.
 
In the case of the solo-entrepreneur and the co-preneurial couple, the family has only one business to maintain. With co-preneurial couples, partners get to work together. The dual-entrepreneurial couple has twice the workload. They work long, hard hours, and they do it alone. 
 
They also face double the anxiety and uncertainty that naturally comes with entrepreneurship. It is not easy to face these uncertainties in your own business, but it can become frightening and discouraging when your partner is facing the same uncertainties with their career.
 
Starting two businesses at the same time is like having twins.
 
To mitigate some of the stress of the dual-entrepreneur lifestyle, I recommend that couples take care to space out the start of their ventures. Timing is always important. Anyone who has had twins can tell you that raising two babies at one time is not simply twice the work; it is so much more than that, physically and emotionally. Most dual-entrepreneurial couples that I have worked with achieve the greatest success in both their businesses and marriages when they do not try to develop two entrepreneurial ventures at the same time.
 
Another challenge to dual-entrepreneurial couples is communicating and working together as a couple, instead of as a business. Entrepreneurs respond to challenges and attack opportunities in ways that don’t always translate well when dealing with personal and family issues. When you come home, treat your spouse as a partner, not an employee or competitor. You are on the same team. Be your partner’s cheerleader, friend, and confidant.
 
It is necessary that partners step away from their businesses sometimes and make time for each other. I suggest that couples take at least 15 minutes a day, maybe in the morning over a cup of coffee, to engage in meaningful conversation without distractions. Distractions include your cell phone and tablet. Talk to your partner, not about business, but about deeper things that help you connect as a couple.
 
Dual-entrepreneurial couples spend so much time apart, working hard at their separate businesses, that it becomes even more necessary to schedule time to reconnect as a couple. Notice the word “schedule.” Successful entrepreneurial couples realize that spontaneous dates and waiting for the “right moment” probably won’t happen. Rather, they plan for love to happen and be sustained.
 
Dual-entrepreneurship can be an ideal way of life for two competitive, driven people. Through genuine love and support, couples can survive and thrive in this high-stress environment. I have worked with many couples as they navigate the path of dual-entrepreneurship. If you need some guidance as you start down this path, or if you are encountering trouble along the way, and you live near Portland OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office to schedule an appointment.

What To Do When Your AS/NT Relationship Makes You Feel Less Than Normal

Monday, November 28, 2016


What To Do When Your AS/NT Relationship Makes You Feel Less Than NormalIt may be slowly dawning on you that you aren't normal. You may have started out that way many years ago, but after life with an Aspie it's clearly not possible to be normal anymore. You’ve been "aspergated!"

What do I mean by “aspergated”? After years of adapting to your Aspie loved ones, many Neuro-Typicals feel as if they have one foot in the NT world and one foot in the ASD world. . . not quite fitting into either. Is that how you feel? Please take heart.

Recognizing that it’s happened to you is the first step to fixing it. It’s not too late to switch gears and create a new identity for yourself. You can even do this while making your NT/AS relationship thrive. Just don’t give up on yourself.

I do believe there is “New Life Ahead” for you. During this season of giving, how about giving yourself the gift of appreciation for all that you do and how wonderful you are? Ironically the wear and tear you have suffered in your life with an Aspie has made you much more aware. Use this consciousness to actively and purposefully build a new life.

Think about all of the gifts you need to give yourself right now! How about that quilting convention you've always wanted to go to? Or perhaps you've wanted to start meditating? What about finishing your degree? Kayaking anyone? Start planning now for a New Year filled with appreciation for “A New Life Ahead”.

Join the next low-cost video conference, A New Life Ahead. It will be held on Thursday, December 8th at 9AM PT. You’ll be inspired by our discussion! If you can’t make it, please check back for future Meetups or book a one-on-one educational session with me. While this is not therapy, you will get a lot of your questions answered.

I want to give you the courage and motivation you need in any way that I can. That’s why I’ve written about my experience and that of others, so you can see that if they did it, so can you. If you haven’t purchased your copy of my books on how to make your NT/AS relationships thrive, here are links with more information:

Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome

Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge?


Read more on my website: Asperger Relationships.

What to Do When Your Asperger Mate Makes You Feel Invisible

Monday, October 31, 2016


What to Do When Your Asperger Mate Makes You Feel InvisibleYou fell in love with your husband because he was kind, attentive and very intelligent. He wasn’t like the other guys you dated. He made you feel special. Now the specialness has worn off, and you feel as if you are living with a robot that has no feelings for you. (This can also apply to a man married to a woman with AS.)

But it is not true! He still loves you, but Asperger's or AS makes it hard for him to convey what is in his mind and heart. Because he can’t read faces or body language well, and because he can’t show you with his eyes or his gestures, a huge chunk of interpersonal communication is lost between the two of you.

You’re holding your breath, waiting for him to come alive with you and share the pleasures of life, but instead you see the years disappear as you getting older. This lack of nonverbal connection that means so much to most of us feels like a rose trying to stay alive on the desert.

You long for the type of bond between lovers that evolves over time from all of those small touches, glances, and whispers that we expect between couples. But it’s not there. Instead you feel invisible.

With their lack of empathy, Aspies fail to send us signals that we are recognized, heard, affirmed, and loved. But after years or even a few short months with an Aspie, the sense of invisibility is hard to shake, isn't it?

Even when we are with friends who do affirm us, or even when we have accolades for our community or career accomplishments, we still feel invisible. We long to belong . . . to be understood . . . to be cared for . . . without doing anything except to BE.

This phenomenon of invisibility is about as hard to shake as other symptoms of PTSD. Remember that PTSD or OTRS (Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Syndrome) is a normal reaction to abnormal stressors. This is why our sense of invisibility is so hard to shake. It’s our reaction to living with a lack of empathy for our very existence.

Our next video conference, How to Shake Your Invisibility will be held on Thursday, November 10th at 9AM PT. If you can’t make it, please check back for future Meetups or book a one-on-one educational session with me. While this is not therapy, you can get a lot of your questions answered. Knowledge is power, so with a deeper understanding of how we became invisible, we should be able to come back out into the Light and Love, where we are meant to be.

Entrepreneurial Couples – Disconnect to Reconnect

Monday, October 24, 2016


Couple laying in bed looking at phones instead of talking to each otherMany entrepreneurial couples I work with decided to pursue this lifestyle because they crave flexibility, independence, and the ability to spend more time with their family. However, what often ends up happening is they get sucked into working every waking minute to make it all happen. The result? They experience extra stress and their marriage suffers.

What can help? Taking time to unplug and reconnect.

Entrepreneurs do not have the luxury of “leaving work at work.” The entrepreneurial life is demanding and requires time and attention outside of 9 to 5. And since most of your work is conducted through your smartphone, unplugging seems impractical, perhaps even impossible. Making time for friendship, romance, and family is difficult, but if you continue to ignore the most important people in your life you might wake up one day and discover they’ve moved on without you.

So how do you make time to reconnect? Put down your phone, tablet, or laptop! It really is that simple. Put it down, put it away, turn it off. Start small, taking just a few minutes each day to unplug, unwind, and refocus. As a couple take 15 minutes to engage in meaningful conversation without the distraction of devices. Talk to your significant other, not about business, but about your feelings, hopes, and problems.

Schedule larger blocks of “unplugged” time, too. Notice the word “schedule.” Successful entrepreneurial couples realize that spontaneous dates and waiting for the “right moment” to reconnect probably won’t happen. Rather, they have to plan for love to happen and be sustained. This is where scheduling comes in. Schedule a date night once a week. Take a long weekend or a mini-vacation, something that pulls you away from the demands of entrepreneurial life.

When you spend this time together, do your best to put away your devices. Sitting in the same room together or eating at the same table is not the same as connecting. To connect to each other, you must disconnect from technology for a while.

Of course, as business owners you can’t always completely disconnect from the outside world. On vacation, for instance, you may have to take time to reply to some emails, make a call, check in with your business. Give yourself a time limit. Once your time is up, put everything away and get back to that relaxation and reconnecting you went away to do!

Spending blocks of time disconnected from devices provides a great opportunity to examine the way you interact with technology. Are you spending so much time on your devices because they are helping you be efficient and creative? Or has your technology usage become a compulsive behavior? As you spend more time away from your devices, you will get a clearer picture of when they are truly helpful and when they are simply distractions.

You work diligently to ensure that your business runs smoothly, receives adequate attention, and continues to grow. Do this with your relationships too. Take time out from the rigors of business-ownership and the constant pull of technology to remember why you’re working so hard in the first place – to share your success with the ones you love.

If you need help reconnecting and making love your top priority, and you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office to set up an appointment. If you live out of the area, I can still help! Please consider Video Education sessions that are available to help you as an entrepreneurial couple.

Letting Go to Achieve Greater Happiness and Health

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


There isn’t anything you can’t learn to gracefully surrender to and let go of as you become okay with the situation and experience greater health and calm.Many people today are dealing with chronic problems – mental issues, broken relationships and ongoing pain, to name just a few. An important phase of healing is to quit fighting it and begin surrendering to it.

Surrendering or “letting go” doesn’t mean you’re giving up on yourself, that you start self-medicating to forget, or that you’re practicing avoidance behavior. It simply means that accept the way things really are. Rather than continually knocking your head against the proverbial wall, you’ll be able to move in a better direction. When you come to terms with your situation in life, your happiness and health will improve.

One of the most powerful things you can do is to become congruent with your present-day situations. Yes, some of the life challenges in the following list can be really tough to handle. But with the right tools and support there isn’t anything you can’t learn to gracefully surrender to and let go of in time. A few of the difficult life situations we face are and need to become okay with might include:
  • Your current health level.
  • Your current level of pain.
  • Your limitations.
  • The death of a loved one.
  • Being lonely.
  • Your body image.
  • Who you are.
  • Your single or marital status.

It’s important to note that being okay with something doesn’t mean you like it. Many of life challenges require that we practice self-compassion when addressing a chronic negative reality. Be patient with yourself as you process it and learn to live with it.

Never give up on finding a treatment that works for you. One type of treatment may work for one person, whereas a different treatment will help another person better. As a qualified psychologist and N.E.T practitioner, I’ve seen many clients respond well to alternative, holistic treatments. These include dietary supplements, mind-body therapies, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, massage, movement therapies, specialized diets, and neuro-emotional technique.

There are ups and downs in the process of living. Sometimes our problems turn out to be gifts that provide us opportunities to grow as individuals. If you’d like to explore your options and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Holistic Health.

The Silent Treatment – How to Cope when Those with Asperger’s Shut You Out

Monday, September 26, 2016


The Silent Treatment – How to Cope when Those with Asperger’s Shut You OutYou had a disagreement with your Asperger’s Syndrome spouse two weeks ago and rather than resolving it, he walked away and has been giving you “The Silent Treatment” ever since. (This could just as easily be describing an Aspie woman.) He’s nice to everyone who calls on the phone. But you don’t exist. He completely ignores you and shuts you out. He sleeps with his back to you. He leaves the house without saying goodbye to you, although he loves on the dog, making it a point that you see it. He mutters under his breath when he walks past you. And you feel like you’re going mad! Does this describe anything you’ve experienced? If so, you are not alone.

The silent treatment is really a cruel form of abuse and it includes more, like ignoring and shunning, and treating you as if your opinion doesn't count.

Yes, many of our Aspies have severe anxiety, and some cross wiring that makes it difficult for them to feel and talk at the same time. Many couples have learned how to cope with these situations by creating their own personal rules for engagement. However, when the Aspie chooses to shut down, cut off, shun and even get passive aggressive, this has the result of making us feel abused, oppressed, and worthless.

Psychologists will tell you that when a person cuts you out of their life or shuts you down in these passive aggressive ways, they suffer from a narcissistic wound. They feel obliterated by your strength, so in turn try to obliterate you. It is a severe type of pathology. Not everyone with ASD takes this narcissistic path, but when they do it is devastating.

I hope that a few of you are brave enough to stand up, speak out and talk back. That's what the next Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD video conference is about. If you’re a member of the group, please register for the call to discuss The Silent Treatment on Thursday, October 6, 2016 at 2:30 PM or Thursday, October 27 at 3:00 PM. We’ll discuss: How to recognize the abuse. How to confront your Aspie. How to take back your life, whether they get it or not. (If you’re a NT in an NT/AS relationship, please feel free to join this group.)

Also, be sure to read “Our of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”. This book discusses the science behind Aspie behavior and how you can initiate the rules of engagement that help your Aspie give you the emotional support that you need. Click on the image below to request a free chapter.

Entrepreneurs - The Power of Planning for a Successful Relationship

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Are you a natural planner? Does it take effort for you to plan something? Is planning for the future, or even dinner tomorrow night, the last thing you feel like doing? No matter what your feelings are toward planning, I’m sure you’ll agree that a well-thought-out plan is more likely to guarantee a successful outcome than winging it!

What kind of planning am I talking about? There are business plans, essential to the success of an entrepreneur. It is necessary to determine goals, methods, contingencies, etc. Most people wouldn’t dare to start a business without some sort of plan in place.

Then there is personal life planning. What do you want to accomplish in your personal life? What makes you feel alive? We plan to fulfill our personal ambitions, desires, and goals.

But what about planning your relationship? If you’re like most couples I work with, especially busy entrepreneurial couples, you haven’t given your relationship the kind of focused attention a plan requires!

Your relationship life plan is just as important as plans concerning other parts of your life. Many couples do not plan for success or for contingencies. Rather, they live in the moment, trusting that life will work out and what they need will come. Often, to their surprise, life delivers a needed lesson in the importance of planning.

Before you begin to plan a relationship and a life with another person, you have to know yourself well. This will guide you to choose a life partner who shares many of your goals and values. What if you are already married? Your relationship life plan still needs to be reviewed, or even created! It may be that changes are necessary in order to better fit the developments of you as a person, and the two of you as a unit. It can be scary to re-evaluate a marriage, but doing so can reveal issues interfering with your marital development, and provide you an opportunity to proactively make changes.

In my workbook, Do You Have What It Takes To Work With Your Spouse?, I outline an effective exercise to help with planning your relationship. Here are a few of the questions for consideration from the exercise:

  • Why did you choose your partner, and, conversely, why did they choose you? 

  • What do you need to change in yourself to make this relationship better?

  • What important lessons have you learned from your partner?

Once you have honestly answered these questions, you can begin to sift through the information to find patterns and themes. Begin to ask why and why not? These can be hard questions, but they are worth asking! If there are areas in the relationship that are no longer working, begin problem solving with your partner. Even for those experiencing serious marital stress, there are reasons to consider that this spouse is in your life for an important purpose. Look for the deeper meanings.

Ideally, you can work on this plan with your spouse or significant other. The goal is to build or re-write a life plan that encompasses your individual life plans as well as a relationship life plan that you create together. I encourage you to complete the entire exercise from the workbook, especially if you are already in an entrepreneurial relationship or are thinking of starting one. Entering an entrepreneurial venture is tough on a marriage. It presents challenges that no other experience can so it's a good idea to regularly reexamine your relationship, plan for weak spots, and face them head-on.

After completing the exercise, sorting through the information and figuring out exactly what needs to change can be tough. If you need help making positive changes in your relationship, and are in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office to set up an appointment. If you live out of the area check out Video Education sessions that are available to answer your questions on planning a successful life as an entrepreneurial couple.


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