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Kathy Marshack News

Find Support After Divorcing Your Asperger Spouse

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Divorce is a touchy subject and even more so when one partner has Asperger Syndrome. Since Asperger Syndrome is a high-functioning form of autism, their relationships and marriages are more challenging. This is not to say that divorce is inevitable but it requires a high level of commitment from both partners.

Why are relationships difficult for Aspies? Reciprocity is a vital part to any healthy relationship, but is usually lacking in an Asperger marriage. What I mean by reciprocity is connecting to the interior life of your loved one and sharing their interior life. An Aspie/Neuro-typical (NT or without Asperger Syndrome) couple are often described as like two insulated wires wrapped around each other . . . touching but not connecting. Because of the lack of reciprocity, divorce is common.

The aftermath of divorcing an Aspie can be devastating. In order to cope with this aftermath, you must learn to be brave, strong, and resolute. One of the best ways to do this is alongside others who have done the same. A support group provides a regular structure to help you navigate through the shock, guilt, and sadness that you may experience after you divorce your Aspie spouse. This type of support group is the only place where you can surely find a level of compassion, understanding, and support that you will so desperately need.

On April 21, 2012 1:00 PM in Portland, Oregon the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of ASD Adults will be meeting to discuss, "Divorce and Asperger Syndrome: A Dangerous Topic." This Meetup will no doubt be a difficult topic to discuss, but it will be highly therapeutic. I encourage as many as possible to attend. If you cannot, feel free to log onto our Meetup page and join our online community.

For more information on Asperger Syndrome and relationships, my book Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge is available for purchase or click here to download a free sample chapter.

Benefits to Forgiving and Forgetting

Monday, March 12, 2012


It is an understatement to say that at some point in life, someone will hurt you. Whether or not it’s intentional, it will happen and probably many times over. Because of this reality, forgiveness is a necessary part of life. It is not only beneficial when it comes to relationships with others, but it also has many physical and emotional benefits. When you forgive, you’re not just giving to the offending party, but giving to yourself.

What are some of the benefits that come from truly forgiving:

  • Anger, bitterness, and resentment will lessen
  • Lower stress levels and blood pressure
  • Stronger immune system
  • Less back pain, headaches, and stomach aches

These benefits don’t just come with forgiveness. Forgiveness must be accompanied with forgetting. What do I mean by forgetting? It doesn't mean to literally forget. That might just be impossible. What is does mean is that you graciously forgive by choosing not to recall the incident to mind along with the negative feelings of resentment. Simply, you must learn to let it go! This sounds much easier than it truly is, but it is possible.

One way to cultivate forgiveness is by working to build up the quality of gratitude. Doing so will help you to see what is good in yourself and in others. Also, is there a lesson that can be learned from the incident that caused you pain? Focus on what kind of person and quality you can develop. Overtime, this will help you be a stronger more confident person.

There are times when psychotherapy might be necessary to help with the process of forgiving and forgetting. This is especially true when abuse, abandonment, or other serious issues have occurred. There is no shame in looking to a professional who is equipped with the right tools to get you on track to a becoming a forgiving individual. If you are looking for a therapist in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area, please contact my office to set up an appointment.

Stress Management is also an important tool when it comes to forgiveness. Click here for more information.

Asperger Syndrome and True Love

Thursday, March 08, 2012


Love is an interesting emotion. You may think that love would mean the same thing to everyone, but it doesn't. This is especially true for someone with Asperger Syndrome. Asperger Syndrome is a high- functioning form of autism. Asperger Syndrome is demonstrated by deficits in communication, social skills and reciprocity of feelings. Because of this odd display of emotion, you could assume that an Aspie does not love, but that is not true. Everyone loves, it is just expressed differently for an Aspie.

This is the case for two Aspies, Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith. Jack is the son of John Elder Robison, author of the acclaimed memoir about Asperger Syndrome, Look Me in the Eye. Kirsten was diagnosed with ADHD at age 11, but 2011, she realized that she had Asperger Syndrome. Jack and Kirsten have been dating for two years and now live together. According to them, they have found love. This isn't to say it has been a walk in the park for them. There have been challenges. To read more about Jack and Kirsten's relationship, read The New York Times article - Navigating Love and Autism.

If you are raising an Asperger child, I am sure you would agree that you would love for your child to grow up and find the kind of happiness that comes from love. If you are married to someone with Asperger's, you may feel lost and confused as to what love really means to your partner.

There are so many questions surrounding this topic. . . Do Aspie's really want or need true love? What really is true love? This will be the topic for discussion at the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup Support Group. This meeting will be held in Portland, Oregon on March 17. We look forward to having a lively discussion and hearing your thoughts on this very personal topic that is central to the lives of many. If you will not be able to join us in person, become part of our online family.

For more information on Asperger Syndrome, read Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions.

Entrepreneurial Couples - Hope for the Best But Plan for the Worst

Friday, February 17, 2012


We live in a world of duality ... positive/negative, good/bad, male/female ... and balance is the act of giving each side attention and respect. Having a positive outlook on life is just fine, but looking only on the bright side is like the proverbial ostrich with his or her head stuck in the sand. You also need to look at what is going wrong, or not working, or not even in the ballpark of reality. If you fail to account for the negative side of things, you fail to plan and live your life fully. How can you correct your mistakes, if you never sort through your flaws and problems? To sum it up, my motto is: HOPE FOR THE BEST, but PLAN FOR THE WORST. That way you've got everything covered.

For entrepreneurial couples and families in business, there are two unpleasant areas which are regularly ignored and therefore never planned for ... death and divorce. There are more entrepreneurs planning for business succession than planning for divorce. Planning for the possibility of divorce of an entrepreneurial couple is a real taboo, apparently. Most couples fear that if you plan ahead for the possibility of divorce, you are setting yourself up to create a divorce.

Paradoxically, by planning for the possibility of divorce right from the start of a marriage and business venture, an entrepreneurial couple has to focus on those things that actually will help strengthen their marriage/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. Therefore the entrepreneurial couple has 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.

Death is inevitable, but divorce is not. If you avoid 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?

For more information on this topic, read my article - Five must-answer questions for passing on the family-owned business or visit Entrepreneurial Couples - Couples at Work and Home

My book Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and at Home is available for purchase.

Another Look at Online Dating

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Online dating has become increasingly popular over the last few years. It is also a multi-million dollar business. Everywhere you look, you see advertisements claiming that you can find your true love by joining an online dating service and paying a fee. Online dating services claim that matchmaking is science and by using mathematical algorithms, they can find you your perfect match.

Psychological Science in the Public Journal is publishing an article about the other side to online dating . . . The side that online dating sites don't tell you. For one thing, can there really be a scientific formula that accurately matches two people for endless love? The algorithms that are used to match prospective lovers are not published, so you do not know what they are using to match you. They also do not collect enough data and they do not factor in how an individual's environment can change what they are looking for. In order for a real match to be evident, you need to meet and evaluate how you communicate, how to solve problems, and if there is a physical connection.

This blog is not to tell you not to use online dating, but rather to give you the other side of the coin. Finding a loving and compatible relationship takes a lot of hard work and persistence. A key factor in finding someone is first knowing yourself. Self exploration will make it easier to identify what you are looking for in a partner. Take note of your strengths and weaknesses and include everything from physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Therapy is also a powerful way to learn more about yourself. A therapist can also give you practical tools to finding someone compatible with you. If you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area, contact my office to set up an appointment.

For more information, visit my webpage - Advice for Singles Only.

Developing and Maintaining "The Love Relationship"

Monday, February 13, 2012


Maintaining a loving and healthy relationship is complex. Many are not taught how to make love work, how to make love last, or even how to make love. We are severely uneducated in this department. Most "education" is based off television, movies, or adult entertainment. All of those sources are fantasy not reality. Love is exciting when it is fresh and new, but overtime many complain that their relationship become dull, stressful, or even nonexistent.

Sexually intimacy is placed as high value for many couples. While sex is a critical part of relationship, it is not the most important. In addition to an intimate relationship, a loving bond of friendship must be there for the relationship to stay healthy and intact. Since life is constantly changing, love, sex, and intimacy must also change.

Ask yourself these questions so as to evaluate your "love relationship":

  • Is there joy and excitement in your relationship?
  • Are you more in love today than when you first met? 
  • Do you view sex as a time to bond and to learn more about your partner?
  • During intimate moments do you feel as though you are sharing your true inner self?

If you cannot answer yes to any of these questions then it is time to take action and make a plan to restore your love and your love life. Have you considered couple’s therapy? A trained therapist will be able to help you identify what is missing in your relationship. If you truly want to make your relationship to stand the test of time, remember that it will require hard work for both partners. Even though you may feel like it is lost, you just might be able to find it again.

For more information on this subject, visit Marriage Counseling - Love, Sex, and Intimacy

Domestic Violence Is More Common Than You Realize – Get Help Now!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


According to a 1997 Gallup Poll report, child abuse is ten times worse than government reports indicate. Furthermore, 70 to 80 percent of child abuse is related to alcohol abuse.

Spouse abuse and child abuse indicate an obvious breakdown in the multiple developing progressions of an individual's life, and are evidence of serious mental and spiritual problems. Chronic problems that have persisted for years are responsible for this total disregard of human values and dignity.

Ray phoned me because he was looking for a psychologist for his wife, Connie. He felt that she was extremely depressed, even suicidal. She would not seek help for herself but agreed to see me if Ray made the appointment. Over the next few weeks, Ray and Connie shared with me a most unique story of two lives nearly destroyed by child abuse, alcoholism, cocaine addiction, and sexual abuse.
Ray's childhood home life was filled with alcoholism and child abuse, but his parents never divorced. Connie never knew her mother, who died when she was very young. Her father remarried several times, and each time Connie and her sister acquired new stepsiblings. During one of these marriages, Connie and her sister were repeatedly sexually assaulted by older stepbrothers.

Ray and Connie wanted to be the Romeo and Juliet who got away. Ray and Connie had discovered a business that they thought could make them rich. The couple felt they were on top of the world. They made very good money.

But then Connie started to demonstrate serious emotional problems. She was irritable and depressed. She stopped caring about her appearance and left the children unwashed and unkempt. And she rarely left the house, which was never clean. It was at this point that Ray brought his wife to see me. Just twenty-nine, Connie was underweight and haggard-looking when she revealed to me what she had been living with. Ray was a cocaine addict, spending about $1,000 a week on his drug. In order to keep from being beaten by him, Connie agreed to use cocaine too. With increased cocaine use, the couple crossed other moral boundaries.

Connie shared these horrors as if in a daze. She was deeply depressed, but also not really aware of how extreme things had become in her life. Coming from a childhood of abuse, her boundaries were diffuse. Physical abuse and sexual abuse had always been the norm in her life. Even as an adult, she did not know how to protect herself.

Ray, too, was a victim. With no guidance from his parents, he had grown up to be a young man with no values, no ethics. He was ignorant of the devastating effects of drug abuse on the mind, body, and spirit. He was afraid, however. He was afraid of losing his wife, and he was afraid of going to prison. It took a lot of courage to seek my help, considering the potential threat to Ray's freedom.

This sad story reveals that stress, ignorance, and drugs definitely do not mix. Ongoing, untreated stress can create health problems, marital problems, drug abuse problems, and ethical problems. As a result of these problems, in combination with the weaknesses of character that evolved years earlier from neglectful and abusive upbringings, the crossing of boundaries into domestic violence is more common than you might think.

If you recognize yourself or your partner taking even a small step in this direction, you should seek the help of a psychotherapist immediately. Ask your doctor for a referral or look for a therapist who specializes in domestic violence. Contact my office if you live in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington.

Don't Be Afraid of Conflict in Your Relationship

Monday, January 09, 2012


Conflict is a given in any relationship, but especially in the marriage arrangement. Two different people merging their lives into one. Everyone knows that in order for a marriage to stay strong, communication is vital. One area that communication is especially necessary is when there is a conflict. The problem is that this is the time when communication shuts down.

One of the major reasons couples have problems is their failure to confront issues head-on. They may fight openly or quietly seethe, but they have a terrible time confronting the real conflict respectfully and honestly. Maybe this happens because of the common misconception that conflict and confrontation are bad. It’s as if confrontation and conflict are impolite. However, conflict and confrontation are natural and healthy components of any relationship.

You are neither bad nor wrong for causing a conflict or identifying one. Conflict is an opportunity to open up communication on a difficult subject. Conflicts are inevitable and actually a sign of growth. Therefore, avoiding conflict is not the goal. Rather you want to develop the tools to "lean into" conflicts and resolve them early on, so that you can reorganize your lives to include the new learning.

If you are and your partner need help to learn and develop the right type of communication skills, seek out the assistance of a marriage counselor or therapist. Isn't your relationship worth fighting for?

For more information, visit Marriage Counseling - Conflict and Communication.

A Word of Encouragement to Neuro-Typical's With Aspie Partners

Saturday, December 17, 2011


When Asperger Syndrome is part of a couple’s relationship the challenges easily mount. The neurotypical (NT) partner often ends up feeling misunderstood, frustrated, isolated and unloved. These negative emotions can create a perfect recipe for guilt. Which is why it’s critical that NTs erase the guilt!

The reason I say this is because many NTs that I’ve worked with report feelings of guilt. Guilt can come in different forms. Some say they have an excruciatingly difficult time staying or leaving their Aspie partner. Even more amazingly, many NTs report that years after their divorce, they are still grieving even though they don't really miss their former partner . . . exactly. What is this about? Behind unremitting grief is often guilt regarding the unresolved marital problems.

You must learn to give yourself the gift of forgiveness and acceptance. If you learn anything from the experts around the world, they all agree that living and loving a partner with Asperger Syndrome is extremely challenging and often times exhausting. At times the NT partner becomes so distraught that they engage in all kinds of irrational behavior. Instead of guilt or any other negative emotion, give yourself the gift of love, forgiveness, and acceptance and possibly even a huge Badge of Courage.

What are some practical ways to do this? Join a support group, spend some quality time with a friend, exercise, or do whatever you like to do to recharge. Just do me a favor, try it! I guarantee that you will feel much better. For more information about how to cope with an Aspie partner, download a free sample chapter of my book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?

Reasons Why You Should Cultivate a Grateful Attitude

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Many people only think about being thankful around Thanksgiving but once a year isn’t enough. Gratitude may have a greater affect on your emotions than you realize. Having a grateful attitude is now linked to less stress and anxiety, sleeping more soundly, better physical health, greater satisfaction in life and relationships. Those are some pretty powerful reasons. You may be thinking that this type of attitude just does not come naturally for you. Do not despair. You can learn to cultivate it.

A few tips to help cultivate a grateful attitude:

Write down what you are grateful for everyday. Years ago, Oprah encouraged her viewers to start a "gratitude journal." Everyday write down a few things that you are grateful for. This simple, daily task really works. Over the course of a few months, you will be surprised how you will be more inclined to take note of the little things that are positive versus getting sucked into the negative. You will be focused on looking for the good. By noticing what others are doing for you, you will be drawn to do more for others because you recognize how it feels to be the recipient.

Express it. Once you are noticing the good things that others are doing in your behalf, thank them. If it came from a random person, stop and sincerely thank them. People do not get thanked enough in this world. If it is someone you know well, consider writing them a letter or an email expressing how much you appreciate them. Try this especially if you are having a bad day. I guarantee that it will lift your spirits.

Put a positive spin on a negative situation. When a frustrating scenario arises, instead of focusing on your frustration, realize that it could be worse. If you think of how the situation could be worse, the situation you are in will naturally look more appealing. This may seem silly, but it's really all about perspective.

If you just seem to not be able to get out of your negative funk, then you might need to seek some professional guidance. Click on the links for information on Managing Stress and Overcoming Depression.


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