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Kathy Marshack News

My Interview on NPR and Resources for Copreneurs Who Want to Succeed at Work and at Home

Friday, April 18, 2014


Copreneurs Couples in Business TogetherI was recently interviewed for a NPR story on, When Divorce Leads to a Happily Ever After for a Small Business. Now this is possible. The reporter speaks with couples who are divorced that have maintained a healthy business partnership, after dissolving their marriage. Of course, if you’ve been following my work for very long, you recognize that the goal for many couples is to stay happily married as they work in their business together.

Yuki Noguchi of NPR news interviewed me for this piece and one truth I shared is, “It's easy to be blind about love or business, but it's also unwise. We just believe that if we love somebody that should be the tie that binds us together in loyalty forever. But we live here on Earth, and all kinds of things happen here."

The latest statistics from the Census Bureau, is that married couples in America co-own 3.7 million small businesses. And for many of them, their marriages and business will survive and thrive as they work through the challenges. Divorce doesn’t have to be the inevitable outcome.

The NPR story focused on one major challenge to couples in business, the loss of trust due to sexual infidelity. But there are so many other challenges. So, I thought I’d pull together some of the big topics and resources from my website that can help.

The big challenges that copreneurs face while trying to keep business and family together:


Typically, problems that copreneurs face arise because there aren’t clear boundaries set between home and work. The couples who successfully maneuver through problems use a variety of techniques to keep conflict to a minimum. Most importantly, successful copreneurs are good communicators. They talk with each other frequently about any problems that arise. In the intense and emotional environment of a couple-owned business, good communication and conflict resolution skills are a must. Couple who need to learn these skills can get help from a qualified family counselor. Please feel free to contact my Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington office to ask if this is a good option for your family.

If you’ve read my book, Entrepreneurial Couples – Making it Work at Work and at Home, you know that I’ve been working hard to give couples the skills to make it work at Work and at Home so that divorce is not a foregone conclusion to the unique stresses of working with your life partner.

If you haven’t done so already, please sign up for my Entrepreneurial Couples newsletter and stay up-to-date on the latest news for families that work together.

Now you can add a new resource to your toolbox—the new, free Meetup, ENTREPRENEURS: Making it Work for Couples and Families. There’s a local, monthly meetup in Vancouver, Washington or if that’s not practical for where you live, there’s a teleconference where we’re connecting with families in business from around the world. Join us and you’ll get all the details.

Entrepreneurial Couples – It’s Your Choice – Keep Managing Crises or Start Living Purposefully

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


happy entrepreneurial couples living purposefullyMost of the time, people are so busy with work and life they tend to make adjustments in life only when there is a major crisis. They quit smoking and lose weight when they’ve had a heart attack. They curtail spending habits, when the house goes to foreclosure. They consider their marriage, when a spouse leaves.

Yet, change is inevitably happening every day, and when entrepreneurial couples harness the energy in change, you can create meaning or purpose out of it. It puts you in charge rather than in a reactive position of always fixing problems. In simple terms, you don’t have to be sick to get better.

Change leads to either growth or deterioration. It seems wise, then, to accept that you’re a changing individual in a changing world, and it’s important to make time to work as a couple toward meaningful and purposeful growth. Of course, crises will continue to happen, since we can’t accurately predict everything. Yet crises do not have to be the norm, if you learn to pay attention to the signals that a change is coming. (Actually, these are really signs that reorganization has already started to take place.)

Some of those signals are subtle, such as feeling bored or confused. Another subtle signal is sticking with a habit that doesn’t now produce the desired results, although at one time it may have been useful. Turning points in life signal change. You can learn to use these developmental milestones to reset your course.

Your goal should be to access purposeful growth instead of just changing for the sake of change. Changing jobs or starting a new business because you’re bored will not guarantee success. When the newness wears off, you may find yourself once again in the same predicament, unsatisfied with your life. Being alert to these subtle warning signs of change helps you proactively recognize opportunities that will benefit you, your spouse, and the business.

Often we miss the wide scope of possibilities. Therefore seeking advice helps you discover a wider range of opportunities. By focusing on changing yourself first, you expand your consciousness through life-enhancing activities and continual education, which leads to self-awareness. You can then take positive steps toward your commitment to getting and staying physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. You become more skilled at resolving immediate problems, correcting past mistakes, and moving ahead with the new opportunities. This approach also enables you to encourage the development of your spouse, partner, employees, and children, which benefits you, too.

Changing from a problem-solving mode into self-awareness and growth may be difficult, especially for busy entrepreneurial couples. I’m here to help. Please feel free to contact my Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington office to schedule a consultation. If you live elsewhere, take a look at remote education for entrepreneurial couples that allows us to connect via video or telephone conference. The possibilities for your life, your partner's life, and your business are unlimited.

Learn more in my book: Entrepreneurial Couples – Making it Work at Work and Home. Grab your Kindle edition here.

Spice Up Romance with your Asperger Partner this Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


spice up romance with your asperger partner this Valentine's DayAre you looking forward to Valentine’s Day this year? For many, it brings to mind sweet, romantic gestures. But for someone who has a partner with Asperger Syndrome, you may actually be dreading the day knowing your feelings are going to be hurt.

That’s because Aspies’ – a term coined and freely used by many with Asperger Syndrome – brains are wired in a way that skirts the ability to know, feel or demonstrate empathy and love.

Empathy is about reciprocal connecting; the ability to step into another’s shoes. The non-Aspie is wired to achieve a mutually satisfying solution. Aspies are not, and they can’t read their partner’s signals, or as I like to say, they have mind-blindness. Therein lies the rub. Aspies are unable to comprehend the meaning of the traditional gestures of love and romance. They don’t set out to hurt their love by withholding a Valentine, candy or flowers.

What are some things you can do to smooth the way to romance?

1. Non-Aspie partners – do not take your Aspie partner’s actions (or lack of actions) as a slight or personal affront, and your life will be sweeter.

Aspies simply don’t ‘get’ why a show of affection is important to their non-Aspie, or neurotypical, partner. They’re out of sync. Expressing love escapes Aspies, because empathizing is foreign to them. 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 list that tells the Aspie what to do and when -- never mind the “why.”

Aspies need to learn ways to engage with their neurotypical spouse. 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.

The Asperger Romance rules might include:

  • Kiss spouse goodbye each morning
  • Call spouse at lunchtime each day
  • Buy “For My Wife” card and flowers for Feb. 14
  • Hold spouse’s hand and say, “Thank you,” when receiving a gift or card from him/her.

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 build more romance into your ASP/NT marriage so that everyone feels loved, therapy is available. Please, contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office and set up an appointment.

If you haven’t done so yet, grab your free chapter from each of my Asperger Relationship books:

Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome,”

and

“Going Over the Edge? Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome.”

Entrepreneurial Couples - Do You and Your Spouse Think About Money in the Same Way?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


entrepreneurial couples view of money mattersThe following phrases and bits of wisdom are based on beliefs that are deeply rooted in our cultural history. As you read through these phrases and statements, check out your feelings, your gut reactions to each. Do some seem truer than others? Do some make you feel uneasy? Which phrase or aphorism rings the truest for you? Which one delights you? And what other bits of wisdom about money can you think of?

  • Money can't buy love.
  • You can't take it with you.
  • Dirty money.
  • Filthy rich.
  • Cold, hard cash.
  • As phony as a three-dollar bill.
  • A penny saved is a penny earned.
  • Buy low, sell high.
  • Two for the price of one.
  • A fool and his money are soon parted.
  • It's as easy to marry a rich man as a poor one.
  • It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
  • Penny wise and pound foolish.
  • Money talks.
  • Love of money is the root of all evil.

Would your marriage mate agree with your answers? Since many marital fights are over money, it’s good for everyone, especially entrepreneurial couples, to reexamine what money means to you and what you want it to mean. Only by uncovering your beliefs about money and how they are affecting your most intimate relationships will you be able to challenge the beliefs that are not healthy or productive.

Has money become an overwhelming issue in your marriage? If so, please consult a trained therapist to help you resolve this situation now. Financial problems are really just the tip of the iceberg for couples, concealing deeper, hidden issues between family members. Contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office to set up an appointment.

Also, check out my book, Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and at Home. It’s an invaluable resource for reeducating yourself about money, redefining your attitudes about wealth, and planning for the healthy management of your wealth. I suggest reading and discussing it together as a couple so you can openly discuss this touchy topic.

Is It Codependency if You’re just Trying to Survive your Autism Spectrum Relationship?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


meetup is it codependency if you're just trying to survive your autism spectrum relationshipWhen we love someone, we like to do nice things for that person even if it means sacrificing something that we want at times. But the operative words to indicate a healthy relationship are “at times”. There’s a balance of give and take. If on the other hand, you find that you are doing it all of the time, then you’re dealing with codependency.

Codependence is defined as “a state of mind where you put your needs and dreams aside in order to help the other person have a life. In a codependent relationship, no matter how much you give, the other person does not return the favor. Yet you keep on giving and getting more fatigued, frustrated and resentful.”

You make a lot of sacrifices for your family member who is on the Autism Spectrum. You become an expert at reading labels so your pantry is gluten free. You relearn how to cook and bake your family favorites with gluten free flours. You snip all of the labels from your AS husband's shirts. You pay for a laundry delivery service because your AS wife can’t handle it. You soundproof the "den" so your Aspie preteen can scream. You graciously sidestep every confrontation. You drink an extra glass of wine to calm your nerves.

At what point is it codependency? Is it really codependency if you are just trying to survive?

More to the point is the question: Who is there for you? If you are always giving and never getting what you need, you will eventually experience burnout. You need to explore self-care. See that your needs are met. Since your AS spouse or child loves you but has no idea how you tick, it’s important to make your beliefs and needs known in concrete ways.

This ongoing issue of dancing around the needs of your family members on the Autism Spectrum will be discussed at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Families of Adults with ASD Meetup, “Is It Codependency if You’re just Trying to Survive?” Make plans now to join us on Saturday, February 15, 2014.

Learn more about Asperger Syndrome and Relationships on my website.

Latest Interview on “Entrepreneurial Couples” in The New York Times

Monday, December 02, 2013


Couples fall in love and many times find that they work well together in their marriage. So for them the next logical step is to begin working together in a business endeavor. You would think that couples working toward a common goal together would draw them closer. Yet many couples have found this creates more challenges than they expected.

This was illustrated in a recent article in The New York Times, Together, at Home and at Work. The author, Bruce Feiler, spent an intensive six months working closely with his wife and many of his friends reacted by asking when they would divorce. No doubt it was asked jokingly, however it underlines the commonly held misconception that couples can’t work together for any length of time without breaking up.

After giving example of famous couples who have successfully worked together and others who have failed, he quoted a number of experts on couple working together. I was happy to talk to him about my research that appears in my book, Entrepreneurial Couples Making it Work at Work and at Home. I shared my insight that couples who work together should never compromise unless there really is no other option. When you’re working with your spouse, you’re going to be tempted to compromise, because that’s what you do at home. But that’s not good for business. Too much sensitivity to others is the primary reason family companies grow slower than non-family firms.

He also discussed the need to set boundaries – what happens at work stays at work, what happens at home stays at home, not to be afraid of conflict, and know when it’s time to quit if it’s not working.

Successful couples combine the wife's and the husband's strengths. Take what you know about each other and use it to the fullest to take your business and your life to a new height. If you could use some personal guidance on how to resolve a conflict in your family business, please contact my Portland Oregon/ Vancouver, Washington office and set up an appointment.

You can learn more about my book, Entrepreneurial Couples Making it Work at Work and at Home, and purchase a Kindle edition by clicking here.

Can Life Partners Be Good Business Partners?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


life partners becoming business partnersElise and Aaron have been in a happy marriage for more than ten years. During that time, each has built a successful, professional practice. However, unexpected problems began when they moved into the same office suite. Because they’re seeing each other every day at work and at home, conflicts are happening more often. The tools they used in the past to resolve problems aren’t working anymore.

This pictures a classic problem between entrepreneurial husbands and wives. Because their expectations are so radically different, husbands and wives become confused and frustrated with a partner that they love. They wonder why they ever asked the other to work with them. Sometimes they wonder even if they should remain married.

Search for a flexible system of relating that can change with the circumstances of your life, your lives together, and the changing marketplace of your business.

As more and more couples consider entrepreneurship, it becomes painfully apparent that they must prepare for the stress that business collaboration will cause their personal relationship. Much of this stress results from couples not discussing the ramifications of working together, not preparing for the blurred boundaries and turf that arise when a spouse becomes one’s business partner. However, clarifying the work/home expectations of each spouse/business partner should be the first thing that any entrepreneurial couple does, even before spending a cent on letterhead or signing the bank loan.

Whatever your style of couple entrepreneurship (a solo proprietorship, co-entrepreneurial couple or dual-entrepreneurs) there are few models to guide you in maintaining a loving marriage and a thriving business simultaneously. It is possible to design a model unique to the two of you that really works. Begin by talking with your spouse/partner about the goals each of you has for yourselves individually in life. Then go on to discuss marital goals, family goals and finally business goals. I have a more comprehensive outline of how to do this in my book, ENTREPRENEURIAL COUPLES: Making it Work at Work and at Home. It’s now available as a Kindle edition. Why don’t you check it out?

If you need some personal guidance on how to resolve a conflict in your family business, please contact my Portland Oregon/ Vancouver, Washington office and set up an appointment.

Read more on my website – Couples in Business.

How Are Women Entrepreneurs Changing the World We Live In?

Monday, August 26, 2013


women entrepreneurs juggle home and workThe numbers of entrepreneurial women are increasing rapidly. Because women are socialized differently than men, they tend to organize and run their businesses differently, though they are no less a force on the American economy. This is changing the way America does business, AND the ways Americans do marriage and family. Let’s examine this in more depth… 

How entrepreneurial women balance home life and work life.

Career women struggle with societal values and their own internalized beliefs about what is required of the competent professional versus the good wife and mother. In order to ease the struggle to define themselves, women can opt for the traditional homemaker role and not work outside the home. However, work proves to be powerfully alluring to women. Therefore, career women have chosen other methods to resolve this struggle.

Most commonly, entrepreneurial women overwork. Instead of asking for changes from their husbands, changes in the workplace, or even changes in society, career women increase the time spent in nurturing relationships as they increase their commitment to work.

While men strive for autonomy first and learn about relationships second, women develop their sense of self first in connection with others. Therefore, a woman’s sense of worth is highly dependent on the consequences of relationships.

Entrepreneurial women use unconventional methods in business management.

Women entrepreneurs have a more relaxed style of management. This can be seen in how women entrepreneurs treat their employees, suppliers, and customers. They seem to prefer a more people-oriented style. According to Putnam's 1993 study of entrepreneurial women in Oregon, women entrepreneurs blend their personal and their business identities. They base their management of the business on relationships rather than on the development of business plans. Employees are considered friends. Family and spouse support are elements without which the woman would not consider an entrepreneurial venture. Rather than network within traditional business organizations, entrepreneurial women rely on strong personal relationships with their customers and vendors. These findings led Putnam to describe the business orientation of entrepreneurial women as a "web of interconnected relationships."

Since this is becoming the norm, why don’t you and your partner reevaluate the arrangements you’ve made, as well as the assumptions underlying those arrangements? Are there ways that you can reorganize your relationship, your business, and your personal life to create an arrangement that works better for both of you? If you’d like a third party to help sort it out, talking with a family therapist can help. Contact my office and set up an appointment in either my Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington office.

Whether to work with your spouse or not is just one of the challenges I address in my book - Entrepreneurial Couples Making it Work at Work and at Home. It’s now available on as a Kindle edition.

Don’t Compromise. Go for a Win-Win Solution

Thursday, August 01, 2013


negotiate a win-win solutionDo you find that most of your controversies end with both parties being satisfied with the outcome? Or do you find that someone usually ends up being resentful, which is damaging to the relationship? Whether it’s between business associates, family members or friends, how can you possibly achieve a win-win situation in controversial matters?

Letting go of the notion that good relationships are based on compromise is tough. Most of us have been taught that compromise is essential because both people can't be right. But the truth is there really are many right solutions to a problem. We tend to think our solution is the only right one because it fits our reality best.

When you aren’t "bent" on having your way, but are willing to risk a little annoyance or confusion instead of settling for a compromise, you’ll find a much more creative solution in the long run.

Just as listening is a difficult skill to master, learning the art of negotiating a win-win or no-compromise solution with another person requires a lot of effort. But the pay off is a relationship filled with respect and cooperation.

By listening you can begin to understand the other person's world or "map of reality." This is vital to developing your communication strategy. Good listening requires that you get your own ego out of the way and that you don't require the other person to think and talk as you do.

Next, listen to what the other individual is trying to tell you instead of their words. Remember that all human behavior is meaningful, but the meaning may be disguised.

Listening also requires that you be truly interested in the other person. If you are genuine, the other individual feels appreciated and tries that much harder to communicate. Even if you don't agree on something, the fact that you are making an extra effort to understand the other's reality will move you both toward a win-win solution.

Working toward a win-win solution encourages free thinking in those around you. If you have a powerful or charismatic personality, you may be able to garner obedience from others. However, you will then deny yourself the opportunity to benefit from their creativity.

It does require that you are willing to devote time. You can't give up in a huff or sacrifice your position because you are beaten down. You may be tempted to resort to intimidation for the sake of expediency, but you will risk rapport. Remember, just because someone gives in doesn't mean they agree with you. Acquiescence often leads the person to become sneaky to get their way or to be passive aggressive and dig in their heels on other issues.

If there is no solution on the horizon, table the discussion until you sleep on it. Oftentimes, this will bring the solution. You may also benefit from seeking the advice of an impartial counselor. If you’re near Portland Oregon/Vancouver, Washington, contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Want to learn more? Check out my website – Marriage Counseling Conflict and Communication.

The Three Aspects of Listening that Contribute to Good Communication

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


couple talking but true communication requires listening mostlyDoesn’t it feel good when you’ve had a meaningful exchange of thoughts and feelings with someone who really understands you? It contributes to your sense of self-worth, belonging, and security. On the other hand, it can sour your day when communication goes wrong because of misunderstandings. What determines the outcome of your conversations?

The most important part of communicating is listening. It’s been said that that’s why we have only one mouth but have two ears. You can’t assume that you understanding someone simply because you know them well or you have much in common. Not only does a person have to listen to the actual words spoken, but there’s so much more that communicates feelings and thoughts.

Communicating is an art. It’s a complex on-going process that can be done skillfully with time and real effort. Here are three tips that will help you to improve your listening skills: 

  • Listen for the meaning. Words often don’t reflect what the person really means. Become a better listener by asking yourself, "Why is he or she telling me this?" Put yourself in his or her shoes and try to discover the meaning behind the words or behavior.
  • Notice why the speaker chose you. When people communicate they unconsciously and many times consciously identify a certain person to talk with. Perhaps you have purposefully been chosen because the speaker needs a certain kind of feedback that they hope you will give.
  • Accept the meaningfulness of all communication no matter how small. Do you tend to dismiss "small talk" as unimportant? There is nothing small about. It is a quick way to build rapport and trust between people. It’s how we stay connected. Often in our busy lives we skip the small talk and get on with the agenda and, as a result, relationships suffer.

An important part of listening is truly caring about the other individual. If you are genuine, the other individual feels appreciated and tries that much harder to send you clear signals that require less translating.

If you’ve tried to develop good communication skills but you’re still experiencing difficulty, seek out the assistance of a skilled therapist. Are you near Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington? Contact my office and set up an appointment. You’ll learn life long skills that you can use to improve all of your relationships 

Learn more about communication in marriage on my website – Marriage Counseling – Conflict and Communication.


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