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Kathy Marshack News

How to Handle Micro-Aggressions from Your Aspie Mate

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Micro-Aggressions are ways that those with Aspergers Syndrome intentionally or unintentionally invalidate, degrade or insult to their Neuro Typical partnersBack in June 2014 our Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD group discussed what MicroAggressions are and what can be done about them. This is an important topic that is worth revisiting. Usually this term "Micro-Aggressions" is used in the context of bullying and discrimination in schools and the workplace. But I think we NTs (neuro-typicals who are in a relationship with someone with Asperger’s Syndrome) are an overlooked population that experiences these micro-aggressions on a daily basis.

What are some micro-aggressions you may be experiencing from a loved one?

  • You’re told only what you have done poorly, not what you have done well.
  • You’re accused of being critical when you only disagree.
  • You’re told you always get your way, when that is hardly true.
  • You arrange loving displays of affection for the holidays, but your birthday is ignored.
  • You receive that blank look when you try to converse.

As you well know these micro-aggressions, while perhaps unintentional, are still demoralizing. Even worse than the original hostile comment, is that there is little chance of repairing the relationship with an assertive confrontation. Merely asserting yourself can result in an escalation of hostilities, making you feel even worse.

But all is not lost.

If you’re a member of the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD, please join our free international teleconference on Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 2:30 PM. We’ll discuss ways to deal with these micro-aggressions and save your sanity.

And if you’ve been putting off getting a copy of Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) because you thought it was just for parents with young children, don’t wait another moment. The above information is just a sampling of the science behind Asperger that is explored in the book. If you want to understand your Aspie better, this is a must read.

Have You Had a “Money” Conversation with Your Mate Recently?

Thursday, September 08, 2016


Have You Had the “Money” Conversation with Your Mate Yet?Have you and your spouse ever argued over money? It’s a rare married couple who doesn’t. Money is a hot button topic for many couples. If you and your spouse don’t think about money in the same way, it can create a lot of tension.

People tend to attach so many emotions to money. So it’s important to have an open discussion with your partner about how each of you feels about making, saving, and spending money.

A recent New York Times article poses seven questions that are sure to help you start this conversation. It also shows why each question is valuable in uncovering feelings about money. I encourage you to make the time to read this article and use it as a springboard for a candid conversation with your family this coming week.

1. What lessons about money did you learn from your parents?

2. What does the word “money” conjure up for you?

3. How many children would you like to have when you retire?

4. How do you think your children feel about that?

5. What was your financial situation when you first met?

6. What are the most important things in your life?

7. What does the prospect of retirement look like to you?


Like everything else in a relationship, money needs to be discussed and planned for. Becoming aware of your own biases and skewed perceptions about money will help you break through unnecessary roadblocks to handling your finances responsibly. Developing a solid plan for the management of your money requires a thoughtful dialogue with your partner, or your dreams may be foiled.

If you need help uncovering your deep-seated beliefs about money and how these are concealing deeper, hidden issues between family members and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Also, check out my book, Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and at Home. It’s an invaluable resource for reeducating yourself about money, redefining your attitudes about wealth, and planning for the healthy management of your wealth. I suggest reading and discussing it together as a couple so you can openly discuss this touchy topic.

Does Your Aspie Spouse Make You Look Like the “Bad Guy?”

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Subtle ways that those with Asperger’s (ASD) unintentionally disrespect their mates, causing you to think it’s all your fault, and your children do too!Recently I stumbled upon an article that captures the essence of the life NT’s face when living with a mate who has undiagnosed ASD or Asperger’s Syndrome. The article by Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC, is entitled, Married with Undiagnosed ASD: Why Women Who Leave Lose Twice, and it does an excellent job in making a painful situation so relatable as it captures the subtleties of the disrespect that is passed from ASD parent to child. I’ll provide a brief summary of the story for you here, but I encourage you to please take the time to read the entire article and the comments that follow it.

An undiagnosed ASD man marries a woman  whom he greatly admires for her success and social skills. (Note: This story could just as easily have been about an ASD woman who marries a NT man. Not all Aspies are male.) But as soon as the wedding is over, these very qualities make him uncomfortable. Therefore, he withdraws into his predictable patterns and he tries to pigeon hole her into them as well. But this makes her feel like she’s disappearing. She feels rejected and lonely. Maybe it’s all in her head. No one understands what she’s going through. They just see that this is a good guy and she’s not trying hard enough to make the marriage work.


Then, when they have children, the situation gets worse. She tries to cover for him and create a “normal” life for them, yet he subtly undermines her efforts. No, he’s not intending to do harm. It’s just that if he doesn’t think it’s important, it’s not going to be part of their lives. A poignant story is told about how he doesn’t view her birthday as important, so the children also learn that mommy’s birthday isn’t important.

As Sarah Swenson describes it from the child’s perspective, mommy becomes the “bad guy” the “boss” who treats daddy badly.

“She is the woman who did not deserve to have birthday parties, remember. She is the woman who appeared to have pushed their father aside, so he was unable to be part of their daily lives. She appeared to have been the one who rejected him, and who instead of involving him in their lives, inserted her own agenda and goals. She is the one who spent all the money, because she had to manage everything and make all the decisions without her husband’s input. She is the one, most importantly, who broke up the family. Her selfishness caused the divorce, and the children were left to sort it all out.”

Yes, in order to preserve her sanity, this woman leaves this unintended abuse and neglect. She loses her marriage, her husband, and the respect of her children because they blame her for everything.

This story struck a chord with me and many other women, as the comments reveal. In particular, the subtlety of the disrespect is important to note. Trying to free yourself from this disrespect is futile until you understood who you’re dealing with. And, in the end, you may need to leave “the burning building”, regardless of whether your Aspie intended the disrespect.

I understand what you’re going through and I want you to know that there is hope. Hope for being understood. Hope for finding yourself again. Hope for making a better life with your Aspie or, if necessary, without your Aspie mate. Please join our growing community of NTs and discover how to navigate this crazy making ASD/NT world.

Two Traits Researchers Say You Need for a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship

Monday, August 22, 2016


Why some marriages last while others don’t is the subject of scientific research and they found that kindness is the key factor to successful relationships.Every relationship has ups and downs. The normal stresses of a life tend to deplete our emotional and physical strength and it’s not surprising that we end up taking it out on the person closest to us. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Business Insider published an article about two basic traits that make a relationship last. If you’re in a relationship or plan to be in a relationship, I encourage you to read the entire article, because it has a lot of practical advice that works. Here are some of the highlights:

In the 1970’s, social scientists started studying marriages to determine what made relationships healthy and long-lasting. One of them, psychologist John Gottman, set up “The Love Lab” with his colleague Robert Levenson at the University of Washington. They invited newlyweds into the lab and recorded their physical response (i.e., blood flow, heart rate, sweat production) to questions about their relationship. Six years later they checked back with them to see if they were still couples.

From the data they gathered, Gottman separated the couples into two major groups: the masters (still happily together) and the disasters (no longer together or were unhappy in their marriages). How were they different? They found that disasters looked calm on the outside, but inside they were in the fight-or-flight mode, meaning they were in an attack or aggressive mode. The masters, on the other hand, had created a climate where they were emotionally and physically comfortable.

How did the masters create happy marriages? Further research showed it was because they worked hard to respect each other. They paid close attention to each other by listening and responding with full attention each time the partner spoke, even if it seemed like a trivial matter like, “Look at that beautiful bird outside.”

So, in practical terms this means that if your partner says something to you and you’re tempted to ignore her or to say, “Don’t interrupt me, I’m reading.” Stop yourself, put your book down, and pay close attention to your partner. Here are some other bits of advice from the article:

  • Listen and make eye contact when your partner speaks.
  • Be generous and look for ways to practice acts of kindness.
  • Speak kindly, never attack.
  • Avoid indifference, contempt and a critical attitude.
  • Don’t assume the worst or jump to conclusions.
  • Look for the positive and overlook the negative.
  • Appreciate the intent, knowing he or she is trying to do the right thing.
  • Share the joy and be excited about your partner’s successes. (According to another psychologist researcher, Shelly Gable, this is the most important determining factor for a successful marriage.)
  • Avoid being a kill-joy.

It all boils down to two basic traits for a successful relationship – kindness and generosity.


Think of them as muscles that need to be made stronger through use. It may be uncomfortable at first, but with practice it will become easier and more rewarding as your partner feels loved, understood, and validated. You’ll find that what you give will come back to you in time.

Do you feel as if your marriage is on shaky ground and you need help in mending it? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please feel free to contact my office and schedule an appointment. I want to help you to create a happy and successful relationship.

Read more on my website: Marriage Advice.

What You Can Do To Resolve a High Conflict Divorce

Thursday, August 18, 2016


If your soon-to-be ex is a narcissist, you’re heading for a high conflict divorce, so learn how best to handle your division of property and custody battlesOne of the most sought after topics on my website is learning more about dealing with high conflict divorces. Does that surprise you? It did me when I noticed this trend. We all know that many marriages end in divorce today. It’s tough when there’s additional strain put on the marriage bond, such as the entrepreneurial lifestyle or raising children with Autism. And it’s only to be expected that not all of these divorces will be amicable. Some divorces will be end up being difficult but business-like, while others become high conflict divorces.

I do believe it’s possible to prevent or at least better tolerate a high conflict divorce. Anyone going through a life changing experience like a divorce, high conflict or otherwise, should seek the support of a therapist, your church, and other groups supportive of your experience. You’re going to need a level head. And while friends and family love you, your therapist will be more objective. This objectivity will help you stay out of the power struggles that the controlling person can create in a high conflict divorce.

If at all possible, work with a mediator to craft a win-win solution to your divorce. Be willing to compromise and to walk away with a “half fair deal.” In the long run, walking away from your money and possessions is worth it to avoid the acrimony. Remember, too, that it’s only your perception that you’re getting an unfair deal. With the dollars you save on legal fees, you can free up your life to explore a new and healthier way of living.

On the other hand, if you’re up against a party who refuses to negotiate honorably, then you have to use another strategy. And the most important thing to consider is that your desire to be reasonable and fair may be exactly what does you in. When you seek a win-win solution but the other party seeks a win-lose solution, the other party is in the driver’s seat, at least in our current Divorce Court environment.

So here’s a simple answer if you don’t wish to stoop to the underhanded level. Do your best to secure a fair, mediated agreement. If you can’t quickly swing a mediated agreement with the controlling party, don’t hesitate and hope that he or she will somehow change their mind. You need to act swiftly before you’re inundated. Give them what they want and count your blessings that they allow you to get away.

Never, ever, go to Court with a controlling person who wants nothing more than to trash and burn you especially if they have means (i.e. money or power). And never, ever, go to Court with a controlling person if you have children to protect. The Court system is designed to determine a winner and a loser, not resolve conflict amicably and certainly not to protect the innocent.

Regardless of what you lose in the way of material goods or even psychological status in your community, trust that taking the high road means that you and your children will be able to sleep soundly at night. The gift to yourself and your family is to walk away from these Divorce Wars with your integrity and compassion in tact. And that counts for a lot!

I know what you’re going through. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and would like me to assist you, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Learn more on my website: High Conflict Divorce.

Does Planning for the Possibility of Divorce Set You Up for Failure or Success?

Monday, August 15, 2016


You’ve finally found true love and the idea of planning for divorce is furthest from your mind, but if you want to be happy ever after it shouldn’t be. No one likes to think that a happy marriage can end, but evidence shows that it happens every day. And burying your head in the sand and ignoring that fact isn’t the wisest way to live.

Often entrepreneurial couples start out happy in their businesses and marriages. Then when one is forced to stop working in the business in order to care for family obligations, resentment can flare up and destroy the peace and happiness they once knew. I’ve seen it happen too many times.

You may be surprised to learn that the entrepreneurial couples that are happiest are the ones that plan for an amicable divorce or dissolution of the partnership. Why is that? Not only do these couples have a legal document to follow (such as a prenuptial or partnership agreement), but they also become very aware of what could go wrong, giving them time to make contingency plans so the worst won’t happen.

Here are five very important questions to ask yourself…

  • What if the business grows so big, we need to get bigger facilities?
  • What if something happens so that one or the other partner needs to quit work and focus more on home management?
  • What are the desires of each partner with regard to career and business?
  • What are the desires of each partner with regard to the children and family development?
  • What are the desires of each partner for our marriage?

Paradoxically, by planning for the possibility of divorce right from the start of a marriage and business venture, the entrepreneurial couple has to focus on those things that actually will help strengthen their marriage and business partnership. By digging deeply into who you are, and what you want, you have the opportunity to negotiate with each other to make your desires come true. Instead of resentments building, the trouble spots are planned for. You have a better chance of facing the problems head on, learning from them, or even avoiding them. Planning for the worst in this case isn't a prescription for divorce, but insurance against it.

Remember the question isn't "What do I do with my business or marriage/family if I die?" The question is "What do I do with my business or marriage/family when I die?" And the question isn't "What do I do with my business and marriage/family when we divorce?" The question is "What do I do with my business and marriage/family if we divorce?" Death is inevitable and those who don't face this one are avoiding their responsibilities to others and courting a miserable demise for themselves. Divorce on the other hand is not inevitable, but avoiding thinking and talking about the possibility is just as foolish as ignoring the inevitability of death.

If you want to get started planning for the worst but hoping for the best with regard to creating a healthy, long-term, successful marriage/business partnership with your spouse, try asking yourselves this question: If one or the other of us wants a divorce in the future, why would that be and what can we do now to prevent this? Often it helps to consult with a objective family therapist who can facilitate this conversation. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Learn more on my website: Marriage Counseling.


Restore Balance by Strengthening Your Spiritual Life

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Those who embrace their spirit connection find greater health and prosperity, because the three legs of a balanced life are mind, body and spirit. After struggling for years to make ends meet, many parents say, “I don’t want my children to suffer or work as hard as I had to.” This brings up the question: Is suffering really a bad thing?

Viktor Frankl, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, wrote, "Man is not diminished by suffering but by suffering without meaning." Many people do suffer as a result of having allowed their lives to become unbalanced, of crossing boundaries in unhealthy ways, and of denying the inevitability of change.

In order to restore balance, you must create a healthy lifestyle for yourself and the ones you love and work with. If you have been attending to the mind and the body, you are well on your way to a healthy integration of intimacy, family life, and meaningful work. However, until you assess and address the strength of your spirit, you will not achieve true balance or prosperity. How do you do that?

Remember that spirit is not bound by religion. But as Frankl suggests it defines the meaning of life. Many successful people have a strong sense of spirit and they do believe in God. The spirit connection is not just a belief in God but the ability to relate to God, often through communities such as churches provide. The healthiest Americans are often members of those religious groups that have a strong identity with their church. It’s not the religion per se that contributes to overall health, but the intensity of the commitment to spirit, whether by being a member of a religious community or by maintaining a spiritual practice or connection in some other way.

Although most Americans believe in God, many of us are prone to having fragmented and impersonal lives, which leads to hedonism, increasing drug addiction and other health problems. Spirituality in the sense of the expression of our spirit is not a regular part of our lives because so many of us have abandoned religion. According to Kabbani, a physician and author on Islamic spiritual healing practices, religion gives us something to believe in, an identity, a way to know ourselves in relation to others. Churches, therefore, provide a community within which to know ourselves, to belong, and to repair our fragmented lives.

Since for years I’ve worked coaching entrepreneurial couples, I know many of them list church attendance as one of the last things on their list of things to do. After all, you are busy people, working fifty to sixty hours a week. When would you find the time? You barely have a few moments to eat a quick meal and watch television before falling into bed at the end of your day. However, just as you have reevaluated other aspects of your life and business plans, you need to reevaluate your spirit connection.

If you really want to create a balance among intimacy, family life, and meaningful work, you need to repair the third leg of the mind-body-spirit connection. (Furthermore, if you want to live long enough to enjoy the fruits of your labors, you might want to reconsider the use of television as an expedient stress reliever. According to a review of the research by Dale Matthews, M.D., and Herb Koenig, Ph.D., there is a positive correlation between television watching and mortality: In other words, the more you watch TV the shorter your life.)

Chapter 10 of my book, Entrepreneurial Couples – Making It Work at Work and at Home, helps you do a deeply, personal self-examination on living a balanced life. If you have questions about what you read, I’m available for an online Q & A session.

Stumped by Your Aspie? How to Translate What They’re Trying to Say

Monday, July 18, 2016


If you’re stumped when it comes to communicating with your Asperger’s Syndrome loved one, here are some tips for translating what they’re trying to say.Communication – this is a topic addressed over and over again when I counsel family members who have Asperger Syndrome (Aspies) and is frequently the topic of discussion at our Meetup (Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD). Having raised a daughter with Asperger’s I understand the frustration many of you feel when you try to understand what exactly your Aspie is trying to say.

If any of you are familiar with Star Trek, you might envy the Universal Translator on board the ship that automatically translates every language and sends the translations directly to the chip implanted in the brain of every officer on the Enterprise. Wouldn’t that be helpful!

While a Universal Translator doesn’t exist, we do have another option: Always speak to the good intention, whatever it is, even if you are not sure. When you get a confusing message from your Aspie partner or child, always assume it makes sense somehow, someway. Trust that there is a good intention behind the message even if is speaking Aspie.

By maintaining a neutral position, you are better able to answer the question, “Why is he/she telling me this?”

When I get stumped by a confusing message from an Aspie, I use the phrase, “That’s right,” in order to bring me to neutral. The phrase reminds me that the other person is “right” in that they have a good intention, which has meaning to them. “That’s right,” also helps me know that I am “right,” in that I am capable of good intentions. You may not always be able to get the message translated, but at least being in neutral puts you in a much better frame of mind for the attempt.

Here’s a simple example. When my daughter Bianca was 8, she wrote me a note about trouble she was having at lunch at school. She grew up around my home office, so she observed that my office manager and I often exchanged written notes (even with the advent of e-mail). If I was with a client, Bianca would leave me a note, so that I would be sure to answer her when I had a break from appointments.

Notes became Bianca’s version of the Universal Translator. Her penchant for writing as opposed to talking with me should be noted. It is a typical Aspie trait to find comfort in the written word—because face-to-face communication requires empathy and the interpretation of confusing non-verbal messages.

So the next time you feel stumped by your Aspie, put yourself in neutral and then ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I know about this person?
  • What is important to him or her?
  • What are their interests, beliefs and opinions?

Then do your best to speak to those things, instead of relying only on your interpretation of reality. If you want to delve deeper into understanding how to communicate with your Aspie check out my book, “Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)", you can download the first chapter for free. If you have questions about what you read I’m available for an online Q & A session.

 

Entrepreneurs - Money Problems Are Really Indicators of Bigger Issues

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Every entrepreneur experiences financial struggles, yet money problems arise because of how you think or what you believe about money and how you use it.Do you have problems with money? Actually that’s a misleading question. The fact is you really don’t have problems with money. Money is a neutral form of exchange. It’s neither good nor bad. Money in itself isn’t the problem. The problem is how you think or what you believe about money and how you, in turn, use it.

In situations of extreme dysfunction it’s not surprising that money problems surface along with addictions and domestic violence. As I have said several times, once one ethical boundary is crossed, it becomes easier to cross others.

Yet it’s equally true that not all problems in an entrepreneurial relationship eventually cause money problems. Some couples retain their financial wealth in spite of problems in other areas of their business and life. Still other couples are able to keep a problem isolated long enough to work it out so that the balance is restored before the consequences affect the pocketbook. In the case of dual entrepreneurs, money trouble may trigger events that upset the balance of their lives and business.

There isn’t an entrepreneur that hasn’t experienced financial problems. Perhaps your first venture fizzled out. Perhaps a change in the industry forced you to seek diversification. You may have had to borrow money to make payroll on at least one occasion. You may even have faced bankruptcy.

The American Dream is not as easy to achieve as the naive may think. It takes hard work and resilience—often a lot of resilience to fight back when the cash flow has dried up. When you have life and business plans, and when you’ve been attending to your stress level and keeping your developing progressions in a healthy balance, you can face money troubles with determination and creativity. Unpleasant as the task may be, healthy people do what they need to do. Still, you never know just exactly how you will survive a financial disaster until you face one.

Even though your life may not be as out of control as the lives of some, you still may be alarmed by the stories you hear and these may alert you to changes you need to make in your own life. My book, Entrepreneurial Couples: Making It Work at Work and Home provides many Self-Assessment Exercises that can guide you as you build your own personal and couple power plan for total mental, physical, and spiritual health and well-being. If you have questions about what you read, I’m available for an online Q & A session.


More Advanced Truths that Stimulate Healthy Communication

Monday, July 04, 2016


Learn these more advanced truths that stimulate healthy communication and avoid the communication traps, such as “but he said’ or “that’s not what I meant!”Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship, whether we’re talking about friendships, marriages, or business partnerships. When you combine these relationships and your business partner is also your best friend and spouse communication skills become even more critical.

Earlier I wrote about two truths when it comes to communication: 1) the explanation used to describe a person or situation is not the person and 2) people do not operate out of sensory experience, but rather out of their interpretation or map of reality.

Today we’ll explore two more advanced truths that foster healthy communication:

#3 All people mean well or have good intentions.

This advanced truth is often hard for people to swallow. It’s that all people mean well or have good intentions. Remember that these are useful presuppositions, not absolute truths. It’s useful to believe that at any given moment your partner is doing the best he or she knows how. If you at least credit your partner for operating out of his or her map of reality to accomplish desirable goals, then chances are the person will feel respected. From respect comes trust, followed by the desire to communicate with you to reach a mutually satisfying agreement.

#4 The person with the most flexibility has control of the system.

The fourth advanced truth is that the person with the most flexibility has control of the system. For example, when your child is screaming in the supermarket, it’s likely that you will not be able to get her under control by asking politely. Just at that moment when you are begging her to cooperate, she throws herself on the floor or knocks several items off the shelf as you push the cart by. If you become embarrassed by her display, you may be tempted to punish or bribe her. You may also try to leave the store as soon as possible, making apologies as you fly out the door. If you take any of these alternatives, you have allowed yourself to operate according to your child's terms. Therefore, she has become the person with the most flexibility, and she is in control. In other words, whatever she does will get a response from you.

On the other hand, if you ignore the tantrum, continue your shopping, or leave the store immediately without giving your daughter what she is demanding, you are the controlling element in the system. You have remained in your reality and have exercised more flexible options than she has. Similarly, when you have a conflict with your partner about business or home life, you are at an advantage by remaining flexible.

By embracing the basic and advanced truths of healthy communication, you have many more options available to you to listen to and understand your partner, and to move both of you toward a mutually agreeable solution.

If you…

  • make time to communicate,
  • refuse to stray off the topic,
  • listen to the well-intended meaning behind your partner's words and actions,
  • remain open to the prospect that you could be wrong,
  • recognize that your partner is so unique that she or he will surprise you daily,
  • are willing to change even though you have always done things a certain way in the past,
  • and refuse to compromise but press for a win-win solution,

then you will be better able to guide yourself and your spouse away from conflict and toward appropriate solutions.

If you’re having trouble communicating with your partner, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

If you live elsewhere, we can also discuss best communication practices for entrepreneurial couples via a secure video Q & A session. Learn more by visiting Entrepreneurial Couples Remote Education.



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