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Kathy Marshack News

Recognizing and Hopefully Avoiding High Conflict Divorce

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In my professional experience there are three kinds of divorce scenarios: Business-like divorce, friendly divorce, and high conflict divorce. Unfortunately, in the case of high conflict, this type of couple cannot resolve their differences in either a business-like manner nor in a friendly way. They create a war that is costly and damaging to the children and to themselves. In fact the damage they wreak spreads a wide net into their extended families and friends, and sometimes even into the greater community. In the long run this couple pays the price because they may never be able to restore their lives to healthy functioning.

What does it take to make a divorce high conflict? Two things - Motive and Means. “Means” generally equates to money. If one or both parties have enough money to wage a war and they are not concerned with an unhealthy outcome (or not aware of this possibility), this leads to a high conflict divorce. Another source of means is power, which can come in a variety of forms. For example, being famous or having media connections is a source of power. A third source of means is being irrational and tenacious. Even without money or power, a person can create a high conflict divorce through simple means. If the controlling person is uncooperative, antagonistic, and dishonorable, a high conflict divorce will take shape.

Then there is “motive.” If a person feels aggrieved and they are narcissistic, they can feel justified doing just about anything to trash and burn the other person. This includes dragging the children into the fray. And no matter how self-effacing the egalitarian is, he or she will fight back if pushed far enough. Thus the motive to protect and defend is aroused.

In spite of this disheartening look at high conflict divorce, I still believe it is 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. 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.

For more suggestions on how to cope with a high conflict divorce, read Recognizing High Conflict Divorce on my website. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, contact my office for an appointment.

Why Do Aspies and Neuro-Typicals Get Married?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Someone with Asperger Syndrome is characterized by their lack of communication skills, social skills and reciprocity of feelings. The Aspie knows what they think and feel but are often unaware of what others think or feel. With a deficiency in these critical areas, some have wondered how someone with Asperger's develops an intimate relationship or even gets married.

The answer is simple, Aspies and NT's (someone not on the autism spectrum) choose partners much the same way as do all human beings. We are attracted physically and intellectually and emotionally. We may enjoy the similarities for the comfort and the differences for the spice!

We also unconsciously seek mates who have qualities we lack. An AS person may be attracted to a strong, intelligent, compassionate NT who can handle the social world for them. The NT may be attracted to the unconventional nature and child-like charm of the AS adult. They may sense that the Aspie will allow the NT his or her independence. It is only later that they learn their AS partner is quite conservative in relating. Instead of supporting independence, the NT spouse realizes that his or her AS mate is just not aware of (and even disinterested) the NT’s interests. The Aspie’s attention is narrowly focused on her or his own interests.

But it is important to remember that Aspies do love. They just love in a different way. The marriage will be trying, but there are things that can be done to help the relationship. If you are in a marriage with someone with Asperger Syndrome and want that marriage to succeed, you must learn how to understand your partner.

My book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?, was written specifically with the NT spouse in mind, but it can also be beneficial for the Aspie spouse. After reading the book, my hope is that readers can more clearly look at their own situations and, based on the ideas in this book, take the necessary steps to live happier, more full-filled lives. Going Over the Edge is available for purchase or download a free sample chapter.

For more on Asperger Syndrome, visit Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions.

Infidelity is a Symptom of a Bigger Problem

Saturday, December 04, 2010

It's not a secret. Infidelity happens. Infidelity does not have to be physical. Read When Your 'Friendship' Is Really An Emotional Affair for a definition of a non-physical affair. In fact, these affairs have become more common with the ability to connect via social networking sites.

Many think that infidelity is a problem, but it is more often a symptom of a bigger underlying problem. Symptoms tell us there is a problem needing attending to. For example, if you have a sore throat you should rest, drink fluids and take some aspirin. If you press on through, chances are your cold will be twice as bad. Infidelity is like that. There were probably symptoms long before the first act of indiscretion, but no one was looking or listening for it.

You can go on and on looking for reasons why couples are unfaithful to one another, but what you should do is search for the root or roots of the problems, and then to build an intervention. When you are in the middle of this kind of emotional uproar, you aren't always capable of thinking clearly on your own. You need the objective guidance of a professional trained in helping families heal from psychological assaults. Plus the natural tendency of all families is to cover up problems in the mistaken belief that doing so will keep the family safe.


If you find yourself in this situation, do not delay. For more information, visit Infidelity on my website or contact my office for an appointment.


Parenting with an Asperger Spouse in Real Life vs. Hollywood

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

With as many as 1.5 million Americans having some form of autism, including milder variants, autism is a hot topic.  In 2009, the movie “Adam" highlighted the difficulties of falling in love with someone who has Asperger Syndrome and currently NBC’s “Parenthood” has a character with Asperger Syndrome. When I talk to couples in these difficult relationships, they’re not that interested in Hollywood, they’re looking for real life solutions.

With so much emphasis being placed on Asperger Syndrome, many are left wondering, how can someone co-parent with an Aspie partner? What about the children of an Asperger parent? How can a child thrive when his or her parent has so little empathy?

I’ve been moved to investigate these sensitive and unique issues especially after writing “Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship." As many of you know, I am currently writing a new book entitled, “Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”

I have found that when you live with Aspies it’s the ordinary things of life that cease to function properly – like getting enough sleep, or asking your spouse to pick up a child from soccer practice. When co-parenting with an Aspie these ordinary things become strained and turn into not-so-ordinary moments leaving the Neuro-typical (NT) partner feeling drained, unnerved, and tense. In fact many NT spouses/partners report a variety of psycho-somatic and immunodeficiency illnesses such as migraines, arthritis, gastric reflux and fibromyalgia.

If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone. There are answers to this dilemma and I will continue to write about those answers. I encourage you to download a FREE
sample chapter of Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Sight, Out of Mind.” I will continue to keep you updated on any news about the book and when it will be available. 

Pay Attention to Signals and You Can Problem Solve Before the Crisis Hits

Saturday, November 20, 2010

When it comes to problem solving, recognizing and interpreting the signals that others give us is crucial. For some of us, that does not come naturally, but if you take a little bit of time, you will be able to improve your skills. If you do, you will be able to minimize crises before they materialize.

One common error is to mistake signals for the problem.


When a person is angry or aggressive, we tend to listen, but when a person is quiet or passive, we tend to ignore them. Actually, those behaviors are signals of something. Just what they are signals of remains to be discovered. The key is that all human behavior is meaningful. But the meaning may come disguised as signals that look like problems themselves.

For example, one husband was beside himself because his wife could not keep the house clean. The couple ran the a business from their home. Although the husband was out all day with customers, the wife was at home taking care of the four small children, answering business calls, and running the company office. The couple had already problem solved somewhat and come up with occasional day care and even a once a month house cleaner, but still the house was a mess.

The problem was they were focusing on the messy house instead of what it represented. In this case, it represented that the wife was torn about her goals. She wanted to be part of the business, but she also wanted to parent her children. Making more time for her to clean the house, a chore she really didn't like anyway, wasn't the solution. What worked, however, was to set up a system where she could participate in both worlds without them overlapping so much.

Whenever confronted with a dilemma (Is it a signal or a problem?), ask yourself, "How does this behavior make sense to the person engaging in the behavior?" Don't ask, "How does it make sense to me?"

If the behavior belongs to someone else, chances are it makes sense in their model of reality, which may look very different than yours. In the case of the couple with the messy house, what made sense according to the wife's model of reality is that the wife wanted to have a neat house but she wanted something else more. In order to get a clean house, it was necessary to help her accomplish what was more important first.

While some solutions are easy and superficial, many problems require deeper probing. While a band-aid may suffice for a while, it will save a lot of wasted energy and questioning if surgery is done immediately. So, when you see a signal, probe, dig, and most important, don't ignore it. If you can’t figure out what the signals mean it might be time to ask a therapist for help.

If you’re an entrepreneur visit Entrepreneurial Life for more information.

How to Make Your Therapy Sessions Count

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A therapy or counseling session may be necessary for a variety of reasons. Regardless of what those reasons may be, the ultimate goal is to understand yourself better so that you can deal with your situation(s) in a healthy way. You might think that all the responsibility falls on the therapist or counselor, but really for therapy to be most effective is largely up to you as a client. 


Are you willing to put the work in to make the most out of your therapy sessions?

Here are a few tips to make your therapy session count:

1. Find a therapist you trust. To find a therapist you can trust, first consult with a close friend or relative. You may also want to ask advice of your minister, priest or rabbi. A respected professional such as your family doctor could refer you to a mental health professional. If you cannot trust you therapist, you won't get very far in personal progress.

2. Come to each session prepared. Think in advance about the issues or concerns that you would like to discuss. Some have found it helpful to write these things down. If your therapist has given you "homework", do it! Remember that this is your therapy and to make it count, you have to put in the work. Even though you may come prepared, it is still important to let the therapist guide you through the session.

3. Speak openly and honestly. Withholding information or your real emotions is of no value to you or to your therapist. How can you work through your issues if you are not willing to share them? A therapist is someone you can confide in. They value confidentiality and are not there to judge you or your emotions. Like any good relationship, it takes time to develop. The same goes with your relationship with your therapist.

4. Be regular. Stick with the schedule your therapist recommends for you. If you are sporadic with your sessions, it will be difficult to make progress in an effective manner.

Visit Therapy Frequently Asked Questions for more information. You can also visit Psychotherapy Options to learn more about the treatment options that I utilize.

Do You Bicker with Your Spouse?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Is bickering all too common in your household? Granted, conflicts will arise in a marriage, but it is important to get bickering under control. If you don't, then you could be heading down the road to divorce. It may be difficult at first to change the way you handle these types of conflict. It is important to remember that effort is required!

Here are a few tips to resolve bickering:

1. Remember that the differences between the two of you are probably some of the reasons that made you fall in love with each other.
You probably didn't focus at the time on everything that you didn't like about your new love. In fact, you may have never noticed anything that big, but instead viewed those differences as thrilling. But over time, the differences between the two of you surface more and more often. One way to get past the bickering is to remind yourself that you love and admire this person. Focus on those qualities, not the behavior that annoys you.

2. Keep in mind that people change.
Our basic personalities probably don't change that much, but how we apply our personalities to the experiences in life does shape and define us. Your spouse may be showing you a side of him or herself that you never knew existed. Be careful not to resist this new information because it is different. Give yourself time to adjust to the change. Talk about it with your spouse. Change may be painful, but it is the very nature of living things to change.

3. Spend quality time together.
In this day and age, it is easy to be all consumed with work and leave little time with your spouse. Think about it. If you are bickering with your spouse, could it be because you have had no quality time lately? Or could it be because you are sleep-deprived? Or could it be that it's been a long time since you laughed? Take the time to set your priorities and follow them. There will always be another phone call to answer and another deadline to meet that will draw you away from balancing your priorities. But you don't get that many chances to restore a faltering relationship.

If you find that you cannot get your bickering under control, it may be time to seek the help from a marriage counselor. There may be other underlying problems that need to be dealt with. Click here for more information about Marriage Counseling. If you’re an “entrepreneurial couple” you can get specific communication advice in my book – Entrepreneurial Couples: Making It Work at Work and at Home.

High Divorce Rates for Parents Raising a Child with Autism

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Will the marriage survive once an autistic child grows up? Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Waisman Center decided to focus their attention on this particular subject. According to their research, couples are more likely to divorce when their autistic child becomes a teen or adult than couples who have children with no disabilities. Sigan Hartley, a UW-Madison assistant professor explains, "Typically, if couples can survive the early child-rearing years, parenting demands decrease and there is often less strain on the marriage. However, parents of children with autism often continue to live with and experience high parenting demands into their child's adulthood, and thus marital strain may remain high in these later years." For more information on this study, please read Study Details Autism's Heavy Toll Beyond Childhood on Marriages.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, it is vital that you seek help for your marriage as well as help to cope with your autistic loved one. There are many different avenues that one can take to get support. Find a mental health care professional that can offer guidance in the marriage as well as dealing with an autistic child. You may want to look for a local support group that focuses on relationships with a ASD family member. If you live the in the Portland, Oregon area check out Asperger Syndrome: Partners or Family of Adults with ASD. If you do not live nearby, you can join us online where we have many group discussions on our forum.

If you are parenting with an Asperger spouse, please download a free sample chapter of my upcoming book - Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”

A Happy Marriage Contributes to Your Health

Monday, August 23, 2010

Can marriage contribute to your health? According to recent studies, the answer is YES! Recent studies from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University came to the conclusion that those who are married or in long-term relationships have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

University of Chicago professor Dario Maestripieri stated “These results suggest that single and unpaired individuals are more responsive to psychological stress than married individuals, a finding consistent with a growing body of evidence showing that marriage and social support can buffer against stress.” For more details on this study, read Marriage Lowers Stress Hormones.

It is no easy task to maintain a strong and healthy marriage, but it can be done! It takes hard work, dedication, and the proper tools to make a marriage work. You might also need to seek the guidance of a marriage counselor for help. Don’t delay because unfortunately unresolved problems in marriage can have a very negative impact on your health. I encourage you to visit my website - Maintaining a Strong Marriage - where you will learn nine critical psychological tasks that must be applied to keep a lasting and happy marriage. 

Benefits of Eating Together as a Family

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Family dinner has become a lost tradition. Nowadays family members eat when they want and whatever they want or they may eat dinner around the television or in their separate bedrooms. Studies show that eating one meal a day together as a family can be highly beneficial.

First, it can help the family to eat a healthy and balanced diet. It is a great way to incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your family's diet. This will also help you to promote the concept of a healthy body image especially if you have a teenage daughter. You will be able to observe any unhealthy habits that your children may be developing.

Second, it will improve the family communication. This time is ideal for positive parental influence. Parents, use this time to talk to your children about what is happening in their life. Try to ascertain problems that they may be encountering like peer pressure. Do not use this time for disciplining. It will turn this enjoyable time into a time of dread.

I highly encourage you to take this counsel to heart and add it to your family schedule. You will be happy you did. It may take time to make it happen, so don't give up if it is taking time to coordinate. For more tips on parenting, visit the Parenting page on my website. Happy eating! 

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