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Kathy Marshack News

Does Your Asperger Parent or Partner Make You Feel Invisible?

Thursday, February 05, 2015


asperger partner makes you feel invisibleHave you ever felt like your Aspie family member doesn’t see you? Like your thoughts and feelings aren’t acknowledged and don’t matter? This can especially become a pattern of life for those who grow up with one Asperger parent and one Neuro-typical (NT) parent.

What does psychological invisibility mean?

Recently I wrote an article for PsychCentral discussing this topic and shared an example of how one young woman, Rose Marie, grew up feeling invisible. I’d encourage you to click here to read the entire PsychCentral article. (And while you’re there, will you share this information from your favorite social media platform, too?)

In brief, because those with Asperger lack empathy, they cause others to feel ignored, unappreciated and unloved. When people feel invisible, they can come to believe they deserve to be ignored. They develop coping mechanisms similar to “psychic numbing” where your own feelings become invisible to yourself. They develop a “tough cookie, no fear” exterior to get past their feelings of insecurity. The result of this disregard is what I call, “invisibility.”

And this doesn’t just affect children. Even when someone comes into a relationship with a strong sense of self-esteem, it can quickly be shattered by a partner or spouse who has an empathy disorder.

How can those who feel invisible cope?

Many cope by coming up with an explanation of why life has turned out the way it has. But these explanations change nothing. An old fashioned southern euphemism is appropriate for Neuro-Typicals in this situation: “No explaining; no complaining.” Explaining and complaining are defensive maneuvers that we use when we feel trapped. They are attempts to prove to ourselves that we are okay; whereas if we are truly okay, then what is there to defend?

Everyone who wants to cope with these feelings of invisibility must stop explaining or complaining. Everything you talk about should be about what you’re feeling or hearing or seeing or smelling right now. Don’t analyze. Don’t blame others or yourself. Don’t judge either. No complaining. No explaining.

Do you want to experience feeling truly okay, acceptable, fully alive — without an explanation or a complaint? Perhaps it’s time to seek the assistance of a health care professional. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

This information has been excerpted from my book, Out of Mind - Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). Learn more and grab a free sample chapter by clicking here.

How to Keep Money Arguments from Tearing Your Family Apart

Friday, December 26, 2014


entrepreneurial couples keep money arguments from tearing your family apartWhen was the last time you examined your attitudes about money? Do you have a plan for its wise money management? Money can be a very powerful influencer on family dynamics. Some think, “We’ll be happy when we make a 6-figure income.” Yet, when they reach that goal, it’s not enough. Even with so much in their bank account, they don’t feel wealthy. Some even feel that their money becomes a trap, because it’s causing strain in their relationships and dysfunction in the family. They just aren’t prepared to handle money and its consequences.

Like everything else in an entrepreneurial relationship, money needs to be discussed and planned for. Becoming aware of your own biases and skewed perceptions about money will help you break through unnecessary roadblocks to handling wealth. Developing a solid plan for the management of your wealth requires a thoughtful dialogue with your partner, or your dreams may be foiled. You have to determine what money means to you. Perhaps you see yourself in the following examples…

Jonathan and Brooke had a prenuptial agreement to protect the assets that Jonathan had acquired before the marriage. Years later, after Brooke had assisted Jonathan in revitalizing the business and expanding it into the international arena, the prenuptial agreement had been forgotten. At least, Brooke thought it had been forgotten—until Jonathan said he wanted to revise it. Brooke was crushed that her husband didn’t trust her and was unwilling to give her credit for her contribution to their success. He maintained that their success was due to his financial investment even though he acknowledged Brookes contributions in other areas.


Connie and Ray have known each other since their teens. Never having even finished high school, the young couple got married and launched a successful wholesale health food business. However, in their early thirties, with three children and a multimillion-dollar business that employs several family members, Connie and Ray have a serious problem with drug addiction. They had never had a model for handling wealth, and they foolishly indulged in drug use and now find that their lives are out of control.

Amy and Evan met in college, got married after graduation, and settled in the suburbs. With two school-aged children, Amy returned to full-time teaching. Evan became a successful freelance technical writer. This couple is earning more income than their parents did at the same age. Lacking any models for handling wealth, Amy is constantly worrying that there will not be enough money. She questions Evan about every penny he spends, especially when he spends money to promote his business. Having never been self-employed herself, and having never seen her parents with any money, Amy is unclear about what level of business expenditure is appropriate.

All three of these couples need to bust some of the myths that they have about money. They need to reexamine what money means to them and what they want it to mean. Money arguments cause many couples to seek psychotherapy because they want to make their marriage work. If you need help uncovering your deep-seated beliefs about money and how these are concealing deeper, hidden issues between family members, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Remote education is also available for entrepreneurial couples who don’t live near my office.

Read more on my website: Marriage Counseling and in my book Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and at Home.

Unhappy Marriage? Research Shows It Can Literally Damage Your Heart

Friday, November 28, 2014


unhappy marriage can literally damage your heartLove and marriage makes for very complex relationships. They are not static, but are ever changing as each person matures and grows. Many marriages unhappily end in divorce. According to Oregon.Gov, there have already been 9,693 divorces in Oregon from January to September 2014. There were 25,395 recorded divorces in Washington for 2013.

A recent CNN article, written by Lisa Respers France, reports on an eye-opening study led by a Michigan State University sociologist. This study examined how the quality of a marriage relates to heart disease specifically. They focused on people with ages ranging from 57 to 85. They found that bad marriages causes stress that harms cardiovascular health and since the immune system declines with age, this becomes more critical, especially for women since they tend to internalize their feelings more than men.

A strong marriage requires constant and loving attention, which can be fun but is also hard work. This is because marriage changes as each partner grows and changes. For most people to be happy in their marriage they need to feel respected and cherished. For many, passion, trust, friendship and safety are other essential aspects of the relationship with their spouse.

Here are seven psychological tasks that must be cared for to maintain a happy and healthy relationship:

  • Build togetherness by creating the intimacy that supports it, while maintaining each partner’s autonomy.
  • Master the inevitable crises of life together.
  • Create a safe haven for the expression of differences.
  • Establish a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship.
  • Use laughter and humor to keep things in perspective, and to avoid boredom by sharing fun, interests and friends.
  • Provide nurturance and comfort for each other, satisfying each partner’s needs for dependency and offering continuing encouragement and support.
  • Keep the romance alive while facing the sober realities of life.

There may be one or more of these tasks that you’re struggling with. A marriage counselor can help you develop the tools you need to cope and succeed. And don’t make the mistake of thinking marriage counseling is just for those starting out. As people get older, there are unique challenges you face. You may have grown apart and are not able to communicate as you once did. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to create a happy and healthy life. You deserve it after all these years.

Learn more on my website: Marriage Counseling.


Empathy – The Key to Successful Couples' Counseling

Thursday, October 30, 2014


empathy is the key to successful couples counselingWhat exactly is empathy? Perhaps you’ve heard it described as being able to stand in someone else’s shoes and see things from his or her point of view, which is a lot easier said than done in our overly-demanding world.

Science is proving that empathy is the result of some very complex and intricate connections in the brain. The National Institutes of Health probed the neuroscience of empathy and its capacity to help us evaluate other’s actions and feelings earlier this year. They discuss how “empathy is not only the capacity to share and understand others’ feeling and emotions, but it is becoming evident that it is a multilayered phenomenon in which emotions and cognitive processes are simultaneously at work.” They’re attempting to understand the core elements and basic neural connections and cognitive processes involved.

I’ve discussed these empathy connections in a previous blog about understanding the science behind Asperger’s behavior because those with Asperger’s struggle with empathy. Perhaps you haven’t thought about how this also applies to the way a psychologist can help couples in resolving their conflicts.

Maybe you’ve even put off seeking help from a marriage counselor because you wonder: How can you help us when you’ve never been in this particular situation before? How can you possibly understand how I feel?

The answer is empathy. In addition to the multitude of connections I’ve mentioned before, our brain is also designed with mirror neurons that help us empathize through perspective taking and mentally putting oneself in others’ shoes. My job as a psychologist is to create a safe place for couples to process your issues and engage your innate power of empathy to resolve conflicts.

I don’t have a manual that scripts the solution for each situation, which is a good thing because every person is different. So how can we KNOW what’s the right thing to do in any given case? Drawing on my education and experience, plus paying close attention to this other level of inspiration that comes from the wonderful way we’re designed, helps me intuitively know what to say and do. Sometimes the solutions is to say the right words or point out the thing that’s most needed, and other times it’s simply a kind look or just sharing a safe place that allows you to open up to mending the rift in your relationship.

Often, couples need an objective third party to help them integrate the best solutions for protecting their relationship. Over-thinking a situation and excessive worry can sometimes tax your ability to effectively engage your own gift of showing empathy. Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Why suffer in silence a moment longer? I work with all kinds of couples including couples who run a business together, dual-career couples, couples where one is on the autism spectrum, and couples that find money worries, depression or stress are simply overtaxing the relationship. If you live in the Portland, OR/ Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and schedule an appointment today.

Read more on my website: Entrepreneurial Life.

Dating Advice for People with Asperger's

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


asperger dating adviceAny romantic relationship will have ups and downs due to human nature in general. When Asperger Syndrome is part of the mix, the challenges easily mount. It’s important to note that people with Asperger's Syndrome want love in their lives. They feel love for others and they want to be loved. The difficulty occurs because they struggle with showing and understanding emotions.

A recent NPR interview highlights some of the challenges that those with Asperger’s face while dating. Jesse Saperstein, a 32-year old man with Asperger’s Syndrome candidly shares his experience in his new book, "Getting a Life with Asperger's: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood."

Here are some points I appreciate that Mr. Saperstein shares:

  • “Be up front in telling your date that you have Asperger’s.
  • Sincere interest can all too often be perceived as creepiness.
  • Relentlessly pursuing a relationship, i.e. 100 phone calls a week, doesn’t work. People view this as stalking.
  • When someone demands to be let alone you have to respect that.
  • Don’t invest a lot of money the first or second time you meet someone, because you can’t buy their affection.
  • Success with autism or any kind of challenge comes from knowing you have incredible things to offer. Mistakes don't mean you're a loser.”

Kudos to Mr. Saperstein for candidly sharing his experiences. It’s my hope that everyone with Asperger’s can find a specialist trained in Asperger's who can help them navigate more smoothly through life.

What can parents do to prepare their child with Asperger's Syndrome for dating?

They need to be given proper guidance to develop relationship skills throughout the course of their life. Starting at a young age, the child’s parents need to focus on the necessity of developing healthy friendships that will also promote stronger self-esteem. Once they have reached adolescence, there’s an ongoing need to teach an accurate portrayal of attraction, dating, and sexuality. It would be a good idea to have a trusted friend or family member meet possible dates. They can give insight and perspective on whether that person will be a good choice before the dating process begins.

Can AS/NT couples make it work? It does take a lot of commitment and work. You have to go into the relationship knowing that the quality of the relationship will be different than a Neuro-Typical relationship. It’s helpful for the NT’s to help their Aspie date create rules of engagement that tells them what to do and when to do it in an acceptable manner.

Read more on my website: Asperger & Marriage and my two books “Going Over the Edge?” and “Out of Mind-Out of Sight”.

How Do our Genes Affect our Choice of Friends and Spouse?

Thursday, August 21, 2014


genetic similarities cause attraction between the sexesWhy do we pick specific people to be our friends and spouse? New research shows that it’s because our nose can detect genetic similarities and differences in the people that you meet. Not only that, but your nose attracts you to the ones that are more genetically compatible with you.

A recent CNN article, We're genetically linked to our friends, discusses a study that suggests we are attracted to people who are more genetically like us. They quote James Fowler, coauthor of the study and professor of medical genetics and political science at UC San Diego, "Looking across the whole genome, we find that on average, we are genetically similar to our friends. We have more DNA in common with the people we pick as friends than we do with strangers in the same population."

He and his coauthor Nicholas Christakis, professor of sociology, evolutionary biology and medicine at Yale, have spent the last ten years searching for the biological explanation behind how we interact socially.

What have they learned?

They found that our DNA dictates the social activities we enjoy. Hence our friends, who enjoy the same things, do so because they are genetically like us. And the genes that most greatly impact our choices are the olfactory (sense of smell) genes and the genes controlling our immune system.

Another CNN article from 2011, The power of smell in picking sex partners, discussed two other studies that corroborate these findings. We all have a unique “odor print” like we have a unique fingerprint. That “odor print” is found in the part of the gene responsible for immune response known as the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC). Women prefer the scent of men whose MHCs are different from their own.

This contributes to people finding marriage mates that they are compatible with, who like to do the same things, while at the same time are able to avoid inbreeding and thereby can produce stronger immune systems in their children. What a unique way to keep the human race as healthy as possible! How interesting to learn that we use our nose to pick those we’re closest to.

Humans are so complex in the way everything must function harmoniously. When something gets out of balance our emotions, thinking and actions can become uncontrolled and erratic. That’s why it’s so important to approach mental health issues with a holistic approach – treating the whole person and including nutrition, exercise and proper sleep in that treatment. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area and would like to consult with me about how a holistic approach can help you achieve optimum mental health, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website – Holistic Health and Advice for Singles.

Is it Possible to Find Your Soul Mate?

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Is it possible to find your soul mateSecretly we all look for a Soul Mate, but most of us are afraid to ask for one. It’s as if we believe that if we shoot too high, shoot for the most perfect person who will fulfill our wildest dreams that we will never find that person. As a result, many cave into that fear and settle for a sweetheart who may very well be a good person, but requires too many compromises to fulfill a meaningful relationship.

A recent CNN article, Match.com, Mensa create dating site for geniuses pointed out another obstacle to the search for a Soul Mate. It seems that those with High IQs, such as Mensa members, tend to hold their standards too high to find the right partner. Member of this elite society now have a way of meeting other Mensa members through Mensa Match.

Is it important to look for a partner who is like yourself? They say that opposites attract. Why is that? Especially when we’re young and unsure of ourselves we’re drawn to another person who has the skills we lack. It’s as if we love that person, they will somehow fill in the missing gaps in our personalities or our maturity. The problem is we can’t grow by osmosis. So relationships between opposites generally fizzle out or at the worst turn into a relationship fraught with boredom or hostility.

A lasting union is more likely with someone similar to yourself. If you are single and searching for your Soul Mate, it is useful to seek the help of a psychologist who can see your blind spots and help you clean up irrational fears and beliefs as you hone your skills at discovering what will really make you happy. If you’re in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and set up an appointment today.

Read more on my website – Advice for Singles and Love, Sex and Intimacy.

How Retirement Impacts Couples Who Work Together

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Spouse retiringEntrepreneurial couples journey through many phases in their lives. You have the excitement of starting out in business. Later you enter the phase of managing your business as you juggle the demands of home, family and job. Then comes dealing with the “empty nest” as you both continue to work and get to know each other again as a couple. A phase that often brings unexpected challenges is when one of you decides to retire before the other one is ready to do so.

When couples retire at different times, what issues will arise? And how can you cope?

A New York Times article, Coping When Not Entering Retirement Together”, pointed out two main areas where conflict might arise – how money is spent and how free time is used. This article brought up some interesting topics for conversation that entrepreneurial couples would do well to discuss long before retiring. Some of them are:

  • Are you still energized by running a business or is it creating health problems?
  • When can you afford to retire?
  • Are you going to sell the house so you can more easily afford retirement?
  • Will you want to move to a new location?
  • Will the one income match your expenses?
  • Is your retirement portfolio large enough to support you comfortably for the rest of your life?
  • Will social security kick in before your income stops?
  • What are you going to do to keep living a meaningful life after retirement?
  • Will you be happy engaging in your hobbies, or will you need something else to do?
  • Will the working spouse resent how you spend your free time?
  • Are you prepared for the emotional consequences of this major life event?
  • Will the retired spouse feel guilty, so that you withhold information and communication starts breaking down?
  • Will depression become a problem, because your self worth had been defined by the job?
  • Is it realistic to think the retired partner will want to do all the housework, cooking, shopping?
  • Will the retired individual begin viewing the income from the working spouse as “his/her” income not “our” income?
  • Will spending habits need to change?

As you can see, to make a successful transition to retirement, especially if only one spouse is retiring, open and honest communication is the key. Succession planning also is a key issue that can create conflict if you and your spouse disagree. If you both decide to retire will you sell the business or turn it over your children to run?

You might find it beneficial to talk with a marriage counselor on how to cope with emerging thoughts and feelings you didn’t expect. Join me on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and share what you think will be your biggest issue with retirement.

For more information, read on my website – Maintaining a Strong Marriage.

Would You Marry Your Aspie All Over Again?

Monday, May 12, 2014


Would you marry your aspie all over again?If you knew then what you know now…would you marry someone with Asperger’s Syndrome? Of course, second guessing yourself is a recipe for depression. On the other hand, there’s a lot to be learned when you ask yourself this question. If you knew about Asperger’s then and if he or she knew it too… and if both of you were committed to building an “interface protocol” would it all have worked out better?

What do I mean by interface protocol? Another way of say it is, what rules of engagement would you have implemented early on? This involves creating a template for how you and your Aspie relate to each other. While it might be distasteful to think of having to design rules to live by, it’s pointless to expect your Aspie partner to give what they are incapable of delivering, such as empathy. However, if your Aspie partner can master the rules of engagement, even though true empathy is lacking, you can accept their intentions as honorable. They can learn to express their care for you with the right responses while really not understanding the empathetic reasons for doing so.

For example, a husband may leap up to help his wife if she trips and drops something. That’s the right response, but when questioned, his motivation might be, “because she’ll be mad if I don’t”, not the empathetic “she might have been hurt and needs comfort”. You can help your Aspie understand the rules of engagement by explaining, “This is how it works. Since men are macho and may not want help, the rule is that you can offer help once to a guy and if he refuses, it’s okay to let it go. But if a woman trips, I want you to offer to help her at least three times and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She really wants your help even if she says ‘no’. Okay?”

Would creating a rules of engagement playbook have helped you prevent the anguish and depression? Would you have moved on more quickly? There are a hundred questions. Within these questions we’ll find seeds for healing.

If you are a Neuro-Typical who wants to discussion this topic: “Would you do it again?” with a group of empathetic listeners, join us May 17, 2014 at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup in Portland, Oregon. Sign up to learn more about this group and find the details for the location. If unable to attend in person, you can also join our teleconference Meetup on the same topic on May 23, 2014 and connect with our international group of supporters.

Would you like to understand more of the scientific reasons why our Aspies do what they do and what we can do to help them? My new book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) is packed full of insightful, scientific research discussed in layman terms, so you can not only grasp the concepts but have sensible suggestions to apply in your own situation.

Can Mobile Apps Help Entrepreneurial Couples Stay Close?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


families in business can use mobile apps to stay connectedIt’s not uncommon for families to be in one room, but each person is “alone” because they’re so engrossed in their own mobile device. They may even be texting each other. So obviously, there is a down side to the proliferation of mobile devices and internet access. But is there a plus side?

According to the Pew Research Internet Project, 66% of American couples are using tech devices to communicate with their life partners. Here are some of their findings:

  • “10% say that the internet has had a “major impact” on their relationship, and 17% say that it has had a “minor impact.” Fully 72% say the internet has “no real impact at all” on their partnership.
  • 74% say the impact was positive. 20% said the impact was mostly negative, and 4% said it was both good and bad.
  • 25% say they have texted their partner when they were both home together.
  • 21% have felt closer to their partner because of exchanges they had online or via text message.
  • 9% have resolved an argument via online/text message that they were having difficulty resolving in person.
  • 25% have felt their partner was distracted by cell phone when together.
  • font-size: 13px; color: #333333;">8% have had an argument with their partner about the amount of time one of them was spending online.
  • 4% have gotten upset at something that they found out their partner was doing online.”

In a recent CNN article, “I had a Nice Time with You Tonight. On the App”, the author, Jenna Wortham explores a variety of new Apps to help keep couples connected. Mentioned were Gchat, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Avocado, Couple, Between and You & Me. If either you or your partner travel for business, checking out these apps would be worthwhile so that you stay connected with your partner. Phone tag is a thing of the past with these apps.

While I don’t advocate technology taking the place of in person communication, in today’s busy world it’s best to find ways to stay connected as best as we are able. Good communication is the key to successful entrepreneurial marriages. Join me on Facebook at (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and share your experiences. 


For more information, see Entrepreneurial Life and Co-preneur Resources.



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