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Kathy Marshack News

Minimize Asperger-Induced Stress by Creating New Holiday Traditions

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Lessen Asperger-Induced Holiday StressHolidays should be a fun time to connect with friends and family, but when your husband, wife or child has Asperger’s Syndrome it can be anything but joyful. The increased number of social occasions makes it tough on your Aspie loved one because they have difficulty with socializing. This makes it hard on you, because you always feel like you need to be on guard to field their social faux pas.

To help you cope, let’s focus on how you can minimize the stresses of the coming holidays. This will help you be more prepared to manage the meltdowns and your own dashed hopes for the upcoming seasonal events.

Of course you can plan better self-care, like a massage or an extra session with your psychologist. You can reduce the number of parties you attend or you could even skip taking the kids to see Santa. However, instead of thinking about what to avoid, why not think about the positive things you can do?

You can introduce these new traditions that actually are fun and soothing…

1. Have the holiday meal catered or ordered from your deli. If you don't have the stress of planning and cooking a big meal, you’ll be in better shape to handle the other stresses. Plus you can stay home where your Aspies feel safer.

2. Drive separately to the event so your Aspies can go home early or one of you can take home a overtired child. This leaves you and more stable family members to still have fun.

3. Skip all of the extended family invitations and leave town for a quiet weekend at the beach or the mountains or even at a downtown hotel. You can still enjoy the holiday spirit if you phone ahead and request that your children are allowed to decorate the tree in the hotel lobby.

Your Aspie may be appalled that you want to do these things, but you can tell them "This is a new tradition that I want to start. Let's try it to see if it works." They might buy it. In any case you need a break.

Sometimes you’re too close to the situation to see the best solution to your problem. Often others can think outside the box and provide you with some great ideas. That’s what we’re going to focus on in our next, free, International Teleconference entitled, Creating New Holiday Traditions. It’s scheduled for Thursday, November 19th at 2:30PM PDT. Come and share your best Asperger holiday tips.

Learn more about the science of Asperger Syndrome and how it can help your family be happier in my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD), click on the image below to download a free chapter.

A Caution to Persuasive Spouses – Is Your Partner Agreeing or Just Acquiescing?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


acquiesence is not the same as agreeing. Communicate don't give in if you don't agreeThe art of persuasion is an interesting phenomenon. The skills of persuasion are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. However, the skills can be used in an honest and fair way or can be misused in an unethical and harmful way. It all depends on the intentions of the user and receiver in the communication.

In seeking to avoid conflict and confrontation, a persuasive person may push his or her partner to acquiesce or give in to a certain point of view, but this doesn’t mean that the partner agrees. It may mean only that the partner actually doesn’t want to fight and so appears to agree.

It’s a mistake to push to win at all costs or to acquiesce to the persuader. In either case, whether you are the persuader or the one giving in, the conflict has not been resolved and, what's worse may have been driven underground.

Take for example, a couple named Steven and Danielle. Steven is a driven businessman. He’s succeeded by sheer willpower and guts. He hasn’t let anything or anyone get in his way, not even his wife and children.

They separated when the children were little because Danielle discovered that Steven was having yet another affair. The affair went on for years and even resulted in the birth of a child. Then Steven decided to return to Danielle and their children, and Danielle acquiesced. She really wanted a divorce but couldn’t bring herself to confront Steven. Instead she hoped that he had changed, even though he continued to bully his wife and children.

Unfortunately, Steven confuses acquiescence with agreement. Danielle confuses acquiescence with cooperation. She timidly agrees to every idea that Steven suggests. Behind his back, though, she tells a different story to her children and friends. Rather than confront Steven directly, Danielle tries to cajole him into considering her opinion.

Steven has built a successful business, if you measure success in financial terms. However, there’s no trust in his marriage. And he’s destroyed the self-esteem of his children. Making money and needing to win have been Steven's ways of proving that he’s a worthy person. Unfortunately, this style has only deepened his insecurities because no one wants to spend quality time with him. They’re too afraid to open up to a man who will use against them any information he uncovers.

If you’re a natural at persuasion, be careful to consider the context in which you’re using this skill, and consider carefully what your motive or intention is. If you’re clarifying difficult points or reframing your partner’s position to help move both of you toward a mutually agreeable solution, then by all means use persuasion. But if your motives are not well intended for both parties, do not take advantage of a partner who is quick to acquiesce because she or he is afraid of confrontation. There are other, more rewarding ways to win at love than by undermining another person’s self-respect.

Are you struggling to communicate with your spouse? Do you feel like you, or your partner, give in too easily and it’s impacting the quality of your relationship? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to learn skills that help you to relate with your spouse.

The above is an excerpt from my book, Entrepreneurial Couples – Making it Work at Work and at Home. Want to read more? Get your own hardcopy or Kindle version from Amazon.

Are You a Giver or a Taker? How to Deepen Your Relationships Doing Both

Tuesday, October 20, 2015



giving and receivingIt’s been said that there are “givers” and there are “takers”. Which one are you? There’s a well-known quote from the Bible that says, “It is better to give than it is to receive.” We really do get more out of life when we practice giving rather than focusing on getting. However, the giving-receiving concept has become foreign to many in our Society.

How can you learn to value giving and receiving gracefully as an important part of the human experience?

It begins by developing an awareness of what others need to be happy. If you can’t tell because you have a hard time reading them, simply ask them what makes them happy.

Notice how it feels when you receive something. Many people feel undeserving, and their hesitancy can be interpreted as not liking what’s been offered. If someone gives you something, they feel you are deserving, so don’t minimize or dismiss their feelings. Let their generosity reach your heart!

Recognize that accepting from others is actually giving them joy. Rather than questioning the complement or gift, see the happiness on their faces as they give it and focus on that. It makes them feel good that they’re making a difference in your life in some small way. You are honoring them by accepting gracefully.

Don’t feel obligated to reciprocate. When you feel obligated, you give grudgingly. If you love and appreciate a person, you’ll look for ways to make them happy. So you’ll keep your eyes open for opportunities. Spontaneously giving gifts out of love rather than feeling obligated means a great deal.

Let people be good to you. Notice when they say, “please” and “thank you”, and reward them with a smile. And when someone opens a door for you, it’s your turn to say “thank you”. When someone is talking with you, really listen to them. And then when you have something to say, they’ll be more inclined to listen to you.

We can nourish ourselves on a spiritual level if we deepen our ability to receive gracefully. Even if the gift isn’t something that we wanted or needed, a heartfelt “Thank you for thinking of me” acknowledges the greater gift – their love for you. It does take a measure of vulnerability to allow their kindness to touch your emotions. It’s not something you need to feel embarrassed about. And it does take internal strength to live in the moment because it may not feel comfortable. However, that moment of smiles, hugs and tears deepens your emotional connection and bonds.

Do you struggle with feeling unworthy? Is your low self-esteem draining your life and relationships of joy? Do you want to give to others but you have difficulty figuring out how to do it? Many people have found that various forms of psychotherapy have helped them to change. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and let’s work out a therapy that’s best for you.

Will the Next Generation Lose the Ability to Empathize Because of Technology?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


will the next generation lose the ability to empathize because of technologyDo you enjoy having deeply meaningful conversations? People are connected in so many ways today – cell phones, text messaging, emails, and social media to mention a few. And while I’m not opposed to technological advances, something is happening to our ability to connect on a deeper, empathetic level.

In a recent New York Times article, Sherry Turkle, a M.I.T professor, shares her insights on how texting has negatively impacted people’s ability to connect empathetically. Here are some of the highlights from the article:

A 2015 study by the Pew Research Center reports that 89 percent of cell phone owners used their phones during the last social gathering they attended, even though they felt that it hurt the conversation. (Click here to view the PDF.)

Many young people think they can text undetected while having an in-person conversation with someone. Students have even made up the “rule of three” in a group setting. If three people have their heads up and are paying attention, then you can look down at your phone. When you’re paying attention, someone else gets to look at his or her phone. Throughout the conversation people will be checking in and out. No place for deeply connecting conversations there.
In 2010, a team at the University of Michigan compared the data from 72 studies conducted over a 30-year period. They found a 40 percent decline in empathy among college students, predominantly since 2000. (Click here to view the PDF.)

A 2014 study found that children who attended a device-free outdoor camp were able to read facial emotions and correctly identify the emotions in videos significantly better than a control group after only five days of being disconnected from technology. What made the difference? They began talking to each other and this helped them to learn empathy.

A new term “app generation” refers to those who are very impatient because they’re used to phone apps responding quickly and predictable. Real conversations, however, are unpredictable. This deeper connection allows us to explore new ideas. They require that we’re fully present and vulnerable. We make eye contact and become aware of the other person’s body language and tone of voice. Their emotions touch ours so we respond appropriately, whether that means comforting them or respectfully challenging them. This kind of conversation causes empathy and intimacy to grow.

Perhaps this article makes you aware of a gap between how your life is right now and how you’d like it to be. Would you like to create more intimate relationships, but can’t find a way to connect? Perhaps it’s time to seek professional help. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please feel free to contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Is It Time to Renew Your Marriage Contract?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Renew your wedding contractYour marriage contract is more than a marriage license. It’s a group of assumptions that you made about marriage and your partner and yourself. The assumptions you first made at age 22 may not fit at 42. No doubt the assumptions that guided you through those first years altered as you had children, then altered again as the children entered college or when you started a business or changed your profession and so on. Did you think to sit down and analyze what you wanted or what was best given each new set of circumstances? Did you discuss it together as a couple? Sadly most couples do not, which causes many couples to drift apart.

How can you renew your commitment to each other through a renegotiated marriage contract?

  • Schedule a weekend away so you can relax and discuss this.
  • Each should privately identify what he or she now wants from the marriage - write it down on a piece of paper.
  • Be flexible with yourself and your partner as circumstances change.
  • Let go of old ways that are no longer appropriate.
  • Keep your basic values in tact.
  • Identify goals that are in the best interests of your marriage and individually.
  • Discuss with your partner how to divide family responsibilities equitably.
  • Overcome the inevitable fears.

I often hear people say, "I'm not going to change; you knew who I was when you married me; you better be happy with that!" Things do change and people move on. All of us change daily and it's doubtful that you’re the same person you were twenty years ago. And neither is your spouse. Complaints about change are coming from a place of fear...fear of change and fear of the unknown. Change is inevitable. It will either overtake you or you can plan a little and guide the change process. It's your choice.

Evaluate your situation now. Is it time to talk with your spouse and make some changes before they erupt into irreconcilable differences? Have you lost your sense of identity over time? Have conflicts already eruped? Many couples have found that they can more easily and calmly open this conversation when an impartial family counselor is involved. If you live near Portland, Oregon, please contact my office and set up an appointment. I would be delighted to help you reconnect with your lifelong partner and make the next stage of your life more fulfilling.

If you're in business together make sure to download my free Checklist for Entrepreneurial Couples. Click on the image below...


Why Women with Asperger’s Syndrome Don’t Fit In

Friday, September 18, 2015


women with aspergers don't fit inIt’s a harsh fact that women are valued for who they are, whereas men are valued for what they do. While we may make allowances for the eccentricities of men with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), such as the stereotypical absent-minded professor or geeky software engineer, there are no acceptable and endearing stereotypes for women with AS. This is because women – all women, whether they have careers or work in the home – are val­ued for how well they fit in. Most women sense they need to be pleasant, supportive and caring, or they’re labeled “bossy”, “pushy”, or worse.

 In mapping out the “theory-of-mind network” of the brain, neuroscientists have found that women without Asperger’s score the highest in showing empathy – being able to read a person’s feeling by looking at them. Men without Asperger’s score the next highest. However, studies are showing that women with Asperger’s score a lot worse. In fact they are on the extreme male side of the spectrum. This is called the “extreme male brain” theory of autism. You can read more about this study led by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the ARC at Cambridge University here.

For the woman with Asperger Syndrome this gender impera­tive can be a nightmare. Fitting in is almost the antithesis of Asperger’s Syndrome. How can you fit in when you don’t have “social radar”?

The most important first step for an AS woman is self-accep­tance, which doesn’t come from trying to fit in. Once you and your family can accept that this is the way it is, you can finally move on to develop a structure that you can live with. Here are some ways to achieve self-acceptance:

  • Stop expecting to fit in, but reach out to others who accept your uniqueness.
  • Laugh at your foibles.
  • Explore the little-known world of Asperger’s Syndrome and teach your daughters to navigate the world from the lessons you’ve learned.
  • Believe you have gifts to offer.
  • Develop housekeeping routines and mothering techniques that work for you.
  • Hire as much help as you can afford.

What matters is preserving your self-esteem so that you have time to enjoy your loved ones and they you. Seek the support and guidance of a psychologist who is well versed in the double whammy of dealing with being a woman and having Asperger Syndrome. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

How to Break Through the Isolation You Feel in a Family Business

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


feeling isolated in a family businessThe man on the other end of the line was speaking softly, so I had to listen carefully. "I don't know if you can help me," he said. "My wife and I are having problems. She doesn't even know I'm calling you, and I'm not sure she will even agree to see you." I reassured him that I was willing to help even if his wife was a little reluctant to seek consultation. "But I am not even sure you can help," he said, "because our situation is kind of unique."

"How's that?" I inquired. "Let me know what your special concerns are, and together we will decide if it is something I can help you with."

The man paused, composing his thoughts so that he could succinctly describe his "unique" situation to me. "Well, it's just that we work together and it is causing a lot of problems. I really love my wife, but employees are complaining about her to me and that puts me in the middle. And at home, things are pretty tense too. She doesn't seem happy with me at all. I think maybe there's a kind of competition thing going on. So you see, this is kind of an unusual situation, and I am not sure you know much about this sort of thing, or if anyone does."

More often than not, this is how my first conversation with a member of an entrepreneurial couple goes. One spouse or the other calls, with trepidation about whether anyone can help. The isolation of entrepreneurial couple life has led them to believe that their situation is unique, when in fact, entrepreneurial couples are quite common.

In addition, the assumption that the other spouse is reluctant to seek consultation is also common. This assumption, however, is often incorrect. Entrepreneurs are usually so busy working and not communicating intimately with their business partner/spouse, that they don't realize that he or she is just as concerned about their problems as is the caller.

Making the phone call to me was a first step toward self-awareness for that entrepreneurial husband. Realizing that you are not alone is a powerful thing. Knowing that others have gone before you somehow makes it easier to explore the challenging territory of couple entrepreneurship.

In my book, Entrepreneurial Couples: Making It Work at Work and at Home, I have a series of in-depth exercises to help entrepreneurial couples examine all areas of their work and home life including money, health and parenting. Self-awareness is too important to be left to moments of crisis. Since change is inevitable and nothing lasts forever, people who seek out change and opportunities for purposeful growth will be one step ahead of others.

And remember, even the most serious heartache you have ever faced—be it an extramarital affair, financial loss, drug addiction, physical disease, or divorce—can provide an opportunity for growth and add to your wisdom. Those of you brave enough to really look at the serious dysfunction in your lives can still develop a meaningful entrepreneurial life with your spouse and family. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment or consider remote consultation if you live out of the area.

Protect Your Heart and Your Bank Account When Dating Online

Monday, August 03, 2015


protect yourself when dating onlineOnline dating seems here to stay. According to Pew Research Center almost half of the public knows someone who uses online dating or who has met a partner via online dating and attitudes towards online dating have grown progressively more positive.

 How can you protect yourself when you’re dating online?

First, watch out for scammers. Unfortunately many older singles in their 50’s and 60’s are being scammed out of their life’s savings! The New York Times reported recently, “Between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2014, nearly 6,000 people registered complaints of such confidence fraud with losses of $82.3 million.” The real number is much larger because many are too embarrassed to admit it happened to them, which allows the criminals to perpetrate their scam on someone else.

What are some warning signs to watch out for when dating online? The F.B.I. gives the following alerts:

“1. Be cautious of people who claim that the romance is destiny or fate and that you are meant to be together.


2. Beware if a person tells you they love you and cannot live without you, but they need you to send them money so they can visit you. And if you do not send them money or help them, they will claim you do not love them.


3. Swindlers typically claim they are originally from the United States (or your region) but now are overseas, or are going overseas, attending to business or family matters.”


The AARP network recommends that you use Google’s “search by image” to see if the suitor’s picture appears on other sites with different names. Also, if an email from a potential suitor seems suspicious they recommend that you copy and paste it into Google and see if the words pop up on any romance scam sites.

What about protecting your heart when you’re dating online? I often advise singles to make a list of the qualities you’re looking for in a prospective partner. Be as picky as you want. If he or she is to fit nicely into your life, then you need to be specific. Don’t compromise. List everything your heart desires from physical appearance, to political beliefs, to leisure interests, to favorite foods. It’s all important. In fact, it’s often the small details that make or break a relationship so put them all on your list, big and small.

After you make your list, ask yourself if this list is a good match for you. Remember opposites attract, but the best partners are much like ourselves. If your list describes your opposite, you might want to rework it.

If you are recently divorced or widowed, it can be scary thinking about dating again. But you don’t have to be alone. There are safe ways to find romance by getting support from a psychologist who specializes in relationship development. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can explore your options.

Read more on my website: Advise for Singles.



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