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Kathy Marshack News

Does Avoiding Confrontation Improve Relationships?

Friday, August 28, 2015


Avoiding confrontation or conflict in a relationship isn’t healthy because conflict is a sign of growth as you open up communication on a difficult subject.Are you like so many people who hate confrontation and conflict? Do you give in on even big issues just so you don’t have to fight for your point of view? If so, you’re not alone. But please consider is this the best way to handle communication in your relationships? Is it healthy to have this attitude?

Listening, talking, communicating, resolving problems, making joint decisions... these are requirements for all healthy relationships. Without good communication skills and quality time dedicated to communicating, relationships soon flounder and fail, especially among people experiencing stress in their lives.


There’s a common misconception that conflict and confrontation are bad. Couples may fight openly or quietly seethe, but they have a terrible time confronting the real conflict respectfully and honestly. It's as if confrontation and conflict are impolite.

However, conflict and confrontation are natural and healthy components of any relationship. You’re neither bad nor wrong for causing a conflict or identifying one. Conflict is an opportunity to open up communication on a difficult subject. Don’t fear conflict and confrontation. Conflicts are inevitable and actually a sign of growth.

Good communication means you don’t avoid conflict, rather you enhance your problem solving skills beyond simple linear cause and effect (i.e. blame). You develop effective tools to "lean into" conflicts and resolve them early on, so that you can reorganize your lives to include the new learning.


Compromising, acquiescing, or forcing your opinion on others are NOT effective tools!

Does that surprise you? After all, isn't compromise a requirement of any partnership? The reality is that decisions arrived at through compromise or force usually lack creativity and seldom last. Sure, an occasional compromise may be necessary for the sake of expediency. But if a decision is important, a compromise may cause deepening anger and resentment. Both people feel they’re giving up something in order to get an agreement, and the decision is a watered-down version of two stronger opinions.

If you don't make time to talk, if you don't nurture your personal relationship, your relationship will disintegrate into bitterness and divorce. So take the time now to evaluate your communication skills and invest the time to develop a meaningful, loving relationship with your spouse.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to get outside help to get your relationship back on track. If you’d like to consult a family therapist and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. If you live elsewhere, take a look at remote education for entrepreneurial couples that allows us to connect via video or telephone conference. It may be the first and best step that enables you to rebuilding a warm and close relationship.


Read more on my website: Conflict and Communication.

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.

How will Your Divorce Affect Your Children with ASD

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


how does divorce affect my child who has AutismSo many marriages end in divorce. This is especially true when there’s a daily strain from the special needs of autistic children. While I can’t determine how many special needs children have been affected by divorce in Oregon and Washington, I did find the following statistics:

During the first six months in 2015, Oregon has processed 3,098 divorces involving children 18 years of age or younger. Current Washington State statistics are not yet available. We do know that during 2013, Washington State processed 25,395 divorces and annulments.

This means that the potential is high for these extremely vulnerable children to be exposed to Divorce Court or child custody hearings. And while the judge and attorneys try to make decisions in the best interests of these children, they often apply rulings to autistic children that actually may harm them.

Take for example a Psychology Today article by Chantal Sicile-Kira. She discusses an example where custody of a child is usually split 50/50 with each parent. People knowledgeable about Autism and Asperger's Syndrome have shown that breaking an ASD child’s routine and structure is detrimental to him or her. Of course, the Family Court System knows that all children need structure and routine, and they have a set of standards that meet the basic needs. Yet they are often unaware that this basic structure is not nearly sufficient to meet the needs of autistic children.

The court system has found it helpful to enlist the expertise of psychologists specializing in Autism and Asperger's Syndrome to give testimony as to the best interests for these children. These trained professionals help the judges and attorneys understand the critical importance of the special needs and practical ways these special needs can be met.

The Psychology Today article also provided three vital questions to ask a prospective attorney if you’re faced with a divorce or child custody hearing:

  • “Do you have any experience with divorce involving special needs children, in particular autism and Asperger’s Syndrome?”
  • “In past cases, have you been able to convince the Judge to take the child’s special needs into account when considering ‘the best interest of the child’?”
  • “Are you aware of the complex needs of a child with autism as they grow older, and how these complex needs should be considered in the Matrimonial Settlement Agreement?”

Are you facing a Divorce Court or custody battle in the near future? Please seek the assistance of a mental health professional who can help your children adjust to their new circumstances, as well as help the Court understand your child’s special needs.

I’m licensed in psychology and social work, so I can provide this service for families in Oregon and Washington. I’m eager to educate and consult with those in the legal profession so they can make the best decisions for children with ASD. Please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Also check out my Remote Education on Asperger's Syndrome.

Why the 50-50 Rule Isn’t Good Enough for Entrepreneurial Couples to Succeed

Monday, May 25, 2015


the 50-50 Rule isn't good enough for entrepreneurial couplesAccording to the January 2015 Gallup report, “400,000 new businesses are being born annually nationwide, while 470,000 per year are dying. And of the estimated 26 million businesses in America, 20 million of these reported businesses are inactive companies that have no sales, profits, customers or workers. There are only 6 million businesses in the United States with one or more employees. Of those, 3.8 million have four or fewer employees – mom and pop shops owned by people who aren't building a business as much as they are building a life.”

What do successful entrepreneurial couples know about keeping a marriage and a business on track that you should know, too? Whether in business or marriage, problem solving requires gathering information. It just makes common sense to find out what successful entrepreneurial couples know and do that works for them. Out of these strategies, you may find a nugget that applies to you and your spouse.

Do you apply the 100% - 100% Rule?

As a family business coach, over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet many entrepreneurial couples and there’s a pattern among those who have long-term happy marriages interwoven with a prosperous business life. First and foremost they follow the 100% - 100% Rule. That is, each partner considers her or himself 100% responsible for the quality of her or his individual life as well as their joint ventures (i.e., parenting, household duties, managing and promoting a business).

While most couples follow a 50% - 50% Rule, meeting each other half way, by following the 100% - 100% Rule entrepreneurial couples meet each other all of the way. They each put his or her whole self, talents, intuitions, and muscle into the relationships of marriage and business partnership, making each equally responsible for the outcome. Even though for efficiency's sake they may divide up duties along the lines of who is most capable or available, they still consider themselves as responsible as their partner for the success of the goal.

What often get’s in the way of implementing the 100% - 100% Rule? Worrying about ego or pride, which is a waste of precious energy that can better be used in pursuit of your dreams or being creative. It’s better to re-direct your achievement need toward the things you do best at the business or at home. That way not only do you succeed, but your spouse, family, business and community benefits too. What better way to express the 100% - 100% Rule!

If you need an outside arbitrator to settle an ongoing family/business problem and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Did you know you can get remote education too? Check out Remote Education for Entrepreneurial Couples.

Read more on my website: Entepreneurial Life.

Should You Feel Guilty When You Get Angry at Someone You Love?

Friday, May 22, 2015


feeling guilty for being mad at each other“Urgggh! I can’t stand it when he does that…But he’s such a good guy…now I feel guilty for even thinking that way.” Love+Hate=Guilt. Doesn’t this describe the complex emotional problem that comes with some close relationships, whether it’s a parent-child relationship, marriage, or even best friends?

This kind of guilt, not being able to reconcile love and displeasure, is the natural byproducts of normal human development that hasn’t been allowed to progress to completion. Anger and love are healthy human emotions that emerge often in our daily lives. Learning methods to process these feelings constructively so that we can mature is the work of childhood. Guilt, on the other hand, is not a normal, nor healthy, human emotion (unless of course you have legitimately committed a serious offense).

To feel guilty for being angry at someone is a misunderstanding of the relationship. Nobody is perfect and so it’s likely that someone you love will do something that makes you mad, even if they don't mean to. You are under no obligation to stifle your anger or to feel guilty just because it’s a parent, husband, or life-long friend who has misbehaved.

Many people balk at the idea of blaming the other party. They feel guilty for being angry at the person they love and admire. They haven't learned how to reconcile those feelings of love and hate. They either feel guilty about their anger or more often they deny it altogether. Blame isn't really necessary, but holding others (even your parents) accountable for their mistakes is important. Just as you give others credit for their successes, it’s important to note the failures, the misunderstandings, and the faulty choices.

By holding others accountable you accomplish two important goals.

1. You’re actually treating the other person with respect. You are offering them the opportunity to correct their error. In other words, you are treating them as if they are capable. By stuffing your anger, you feel helpless and like a victim with nowhere to go with these feelings except to build up resentment (i.e. Love/Hate).

2. By holding others accountable, you’re able to view your own flaws more objectively. Not only can you learn from your mistakes but from theirs as well.

Many have found that talking with an objective professional helps to sort out feelings such as these. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Latest BBC Interview on Going into Business with Your Husband

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Recently, I was interviewed by Kate Ashford, a BBC journalist, on the topic of entrepreneurial couples. After giving examples of some success stories, she talked about how it’s quite a gamble going into business with your romantic partner, especially if your work ethics are very different. (Read the entire article here: Going into business with your husband.)


Here are twelve things she learned after interviewing various experts including myself.

1. Wait until you’ve been married awhile so you know how you and your spouse will handle ups and downs.

2. Build a good foundation of respect and trust with your spouse first.

3. Acquire good business skills such as money management, accounting, reading a profit-and-loss statement.

4. Treat the business seriously and write a solid business plan, drawing up necessary contracts and legal partnerships. (Writing it down tricks the brain into thinking about what could happen that you should plan for.)

5. Create an exit strategy for business failure, divorce, or physical impairment due to an accident or illness.

6. Outline how children will fit into the mix.

7. Hire a tax professional to set the business structure up properly.

8. Create a strategy where both partners are aware of the money flow.

9. Designate roles according to the strengths and weaknesses of each partner.

10. Give each other alone time.

11. Keep your business and personal lives separate by creating a trigger routine that switches your roles. For example, one couple gives each other a big hug to remind them that they’re a romantic couple from this time until the next working day.

12. Make time for yourselves as a couple, as a family, as individuals.

There will be things that you have to put on hold until the business gets off the ground, and, if you’re not careful, you’ll find that your personal life no longer is working.

Are you an entrepreneurial couple and you find you’ve lost your work/home balance and want to get it back before it’s too late? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Or take advantage of my remote education for Entrepreneurial Couples. Learn more about that here.

Learn more on my website: Entrepreneurial Life and from my book on Entrepreneurial Couples.

Two Keys to Unlocking More Romance in Your NT-AS Marriage

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


helping your asperger husband be more romanticLove and romance are basic human needs yet they are so very complex. Movies, TV and books raise our expectations to “happy ever after”. But no relationship thrives without both parties working at it. Especially is this so when one partner has Asperger Syndrome.

Recently, I wrote an article for PsychCentral that discussed the challenges that NT-AS partners face and what can be done to create a greater sense of connection. (NT refers to the partner without Asperger’s Syndrome. It stands for neurotypical.) Let me share some highlights…

Firstly, it’s important to remember that Aspies do love. They just love in a different way. What are some things you can do to increase romance in your AS-NT marriage?

1. Non-Aspie partners – don’t take your Aspie partner’s actions (or lack of actions) as a slight or personal affront. See it as an area for further communication. Not being romantic isn’t a hurtful decision they make. When the neurotypical more accurately understands the actions, or inactions, of their Aspie loved one, feelings get hurt less often.

2. Help your Aspie create his/her own rules of engagement in order to act in ways that really matter to you. This personalized list tells the Aspie what to do and when – without them needing to understand the incomprehensible “why.”

Does this really work? One Aspie husband explained it to me like this, “I just can’t say or do the first thing that pops into my mind. It might be all wrong. It’s like I need a ‘politeness checker’ running in the back of my mind to remind me to be a gentleman.” This marriage was strengthened when he and his wife wrote down rules about appropriate engagement in a notebook. He keeps it with him and refers to it frequently for guidance. Without that tool, he says he’d be lost.

Aspies may not understand why something is important to their loved one, but learning to make the effort, the gesture, represents good intention and love, just a different kind.

If you want to make sure your ASP/NT marriage fills the needs of each spouse, you have to frankly talk about what those needs are. Many have found that consulting with a mental health care professional can facilitate this conversation. Are you ready to take that step? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Even if your Aspie mate doesn’t want to come with you, we can still find ways to improve your situation.

Are You Facing a High Conflict Divorce?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


high conflict divorce court caseDivorce is a highly emotional event in a person’s life. It would be ideal if the parties could separate amicably, fairly and respectfully, especially if there are children involved. And in truth, about one third of couples actually have a friendly divorce where they comfortably share parenting.

But when a couple can’t resolve their differences in at least a business-like manner, it can become a costly war monetarily and emotionally. The effects can ripple out through the immediate family and intimate circles of friends into the community.

The narcissistic type of person who usually initiates a high conflict divorce has control issues. They can’t see beyond their own feelings and empathize with others. They’re right and everyone else is wrong. So any solution presented to them is greeted with criticism and negativity. Even if one party tries to empathize with the controlling person in an effort to create a win-win solution, this is just not possible.

Many with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder also control the resources, the money, community prestige, and perhaps even personal relationships with local authorities. They use these to exert undue pressure to get their own way. Generally, healthy people will quit the conflict when they see that they’re throwing away their money. On the other hand, those with narcissism will struggle to the death, trashing reputations and alienating the children from those who love them.

While it may be tempting to give in to avoid conflict, it’s not the best solution. The more ground you give, the more the narcissistic person demands. You must correct false statements about yourself; otherwise they may follow you throughout your life, possibly even creating future legal problems.

If you hate conflict, you need to consult with a professional to help you change the way you meekly respond to blame and criticism. The Court doesn’t have much time to form an opinion, so you must give them a true impression of yourself. If you’re a win-win type of person, you need help defending yourself against the attacks of the controlling person.

Anyone going through a life changing experience like a divorce should seek the support of an objective therapist, your church, and other support groups. If at all possible, work with a mediator to craft a good solution to your divorce. Be willing to compromise and to walk away with whatever you can get. Even if it seems like you’re losing, you get the freedom to start a new and much healthier life.

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to gain the strength and support you need to walk into Court with confidence.

5 Tips to Foster Healthy Competition When You Work with Your Spouse

Monday, April 06, 2015


healthy competition when husband and wife work together in a family businessSuccessful entrepreneurs are achievers and highly competitive, otherwise they couldn’t create a successful business venture. Sometimes achievement, motivation and a healthy dose of competitive spirit are all that sustains the entrepreneur during extremely difficult times. Yet, what happens when this competitive nature enters the family business? First of all let’s consider this important question:

What are some signs that you’re in competition with your spouse?

  • Do you feel envious of your spouse, or resentful? You’re experiencing competition.
  • Do you feel smarter than your spouse or the need to have the last word?
  • Do you evaluate the worth of yourself and your partner by how much you each earn?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, you’re in competition. It’s not always easy to admit this, but once the truth comes out you’re in a better position to work with the inevitable consequences. I suggest you resist the urge to be embarrassed by your competitive nature. And certainly you don’t want to suppress it or even deny it. Courageously admit it and acknowledge the problem to your spouse.

Then do what successful entrepreneurial couples do to work with it . . . they encourage it! They do, however, insist on one unchangeable boundary….their relationship is off limits. That is, their love for each other and commitment to their marriage and family life come before business or career needs.

How can you foster competition in your business without compromising family feelings? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Give credit where credit is due.
  2. Build in rewards and incentives into your business for each partner to achieve.
  3. Pay each spouse the money they’re worth. Instead of paying only the founder of the business and undervaluing the other spouse's unpaid help, the supportive spouse should receive payment for what he or she is worth and not a penny less.
  4. Bonuses aren't banked for the common good, but awarded to the spouse who achieved the reward.
  5. Encourage each other to achieve their dreams, to express their strengths, to utilize their talents. If this means besting your partner in a career or business move, it shouldn't be threatening to your spouse, but viewed as a challenge to work toward his or her own excellence.

Worrying about ego or pride is a waste of precious energy that can better be used in pursuit of your dreams or being creative. Would you like a qualified business coach to help you productively harness your competitive spirit? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Or you can take advantage of video education for entrepreneurial couples. That way not only do you succeed, but your spouse, family, business and community benefits as well.

Sexual Infidelity in the Family Firm – What Can Be Done?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


sexual infidelity in the family firmMargo was dumbfounded. She just discovered that her son Brett was having an affair with one of their employees, while his unsuspecting wife was at home caring for their two children. She knew that Brett was having trouble at home, but she thought with the marriage counseling things were back in order.

Of course Glen, Brett's father had "indulged" in a few flings when he was younger, but Margo was sure Brett knew nothing of this. Brett's actions created a tremendous weight of responsibility for Margo as the matriarch of the family and as co-owner with her husband Glen of the family business. How was she to handle this problem? Who should know about it? Who already knew?

Margo's story, unfortunately, is common. When a family also is part of a larger system such as a family firm, the web of entanglement reaches out not only to other family members, but also to employees, vendors, customers, business advisers, and the myriad other people who are part of the family/business system. They are often aware of the problem but feel helpless to do anything. Some try to ignore it and carry on with work. Others may be so brave as to offer advice. Most worry about their future because they doubt the leadership that’s ignoring or allowing the infidelity. Deception makes people uncomfortable and uncomfortable people make mistakes. As the internal discomfort escalates, and the mistakes escalate, and the stress escalates, the problem can spill out to customers, vendors and others you do business with.

What can be done to save the family and business from the consequences of sexual infidelity?

The solution almost always comes in two parts: First, you must understand the nature of infidelity itself or why it happens at all. Second, you must understand the effects that infidelity has on the entire family/business system.

Infidelity is seldom just about sex. Infidelity is a symptom, just as a sore throat is about a cold coming on. Symptoms tell us there is a problem needing attending to. 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.

The issue here is not to blame or focus narrowly on the indiscretion, but to search for the root or roots of the problems, and then to build an intervention. When you’re 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 – someone who can gently guide the family members back to some semblance of common sense and solutions that work instead of hiding the problem as Margo and Glen had done years ago. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment before the situation escalates.

Want to know what Margo did next? Find out here.

Learn more on my website: Marriage Counseling.



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