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Kathy Marshack News

Money – Is It Creating a Power Struggle in Your Relationship?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Money is one the top reasons why arguing couples seek psychotherapy. One reason is because money is always on our minds. No matter how much money you have, you always have money problems.

Financial problems are really just the tip of the iceberg for couples, concealing deeper, hidden issues. In spite of the power that money has to entangle our personal relationships, few couples seek out psychotherapy when they have a financial crisis. Instead, couples continue to use money in a power struggle with their loved ones. Money is given, then taken away. Money is used to reward and punish. Money is a promise, a bribe, a threat. Rarely is money given as a gift with no strings attached. Can you see the problem?

If you are to truly free yourself of the money trap, you will need to assess your money beliefs, and be honest about your biases and manipulations with regard to money. You need to acknowledge just how important money is to you. You will need to evaluate your financial values and goals and make sure that they are ethical and compassionate when it comes to your marriage and family.

A therapist is fully equipped to help couples faced with this situation. For more information, visit Marriage Counseling or contact my office to set up an appointment.

Autism's Context Blindness

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mind blindness has become a common phrased used to explain the lack of empathy exhibited by individuals with autism. It has been used to explain the disconnect between social and emotional cognition. The facts are clear to an individual with autism, but non verbal communication or body language is lost due to mind blindness. Understanding mind blindness has been a critical part to understanding the autistic brain. According to some new research...there may be another type of blindness known as context blindness.

Dr. Peter Vermeulen discusses context blindness is his new book, Autism as Context Blindness. Vermeulen says, "The term context has its own intriguing historical context. Context comes from the Latin word contextus, the past continuous tense of contexere, which means to 'weave' or 'entwine.'" Context shapes our responses to life. For a person without autism (referred to as a neuro-tyical in the autistic world), life is relative or depends on the context. For someone with autism, life is absolute. Absolute is necessary to certain aspects in life, but not when it comes to social interaction.

NT's are always in the process of weaving a tapestry of relationships within relationships. Other people are how we come to know ourselves and our lives. NT's feel bereft without the connecting that is so important to us. Aspies cannot see the forest for the trees.

We will be discussing Context Blindness on September 15, 2012 at 1:00 in Portland, Oregon for the Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. Until then, pick up a copy of Autism as Context Blindness or click here to read Dr. Vermeulen's article: Autism: From Mind Blindness to Context Blindness. This new light may prove to be ground breaking.

My upcoming book, Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Mind, Out of Sight will discuss context blindness with regard to parenting with an Asperger partner. Click here to read a free sample chapter. 

How to Help a Troubled Friend

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Friendships are a beautiful part of life. Friends fill us with joy, happiness, and companionship. As much as we love our friends, there are times when a friend may be dealing with some serious difficulties such as alcohol abuse, drug addiction, being in an abusive relationship, or financial problems. There is nothing more heart wrenching than seeing your friend struggle, especially if they are in denial or shirk their responsibility.

Friends are often the first to recognize serious problems even before the individual with the problem. This can make for an awkward situation. You love your friend and do not want to see them hurt, but you don't want to add to the hurt.

What should a true friend do? Here are some things to consider if you choose to confront your friend about their problem:

Tactfully and kindly bring up the situation.

Ask questions to draw them out.

Avoid lecturing.

Mention how it makes you feel and why you feel that way.

Keep control over your own emotions.

Reassure them of your love for them. You love them but not what they are doing.

If they deny it, don't take it personal.

Offer to help them. Reassure them of your support and offer practical suggestions. Perhaps have in mind a list of referrals.

Each individual will react differently. You may need to prepare yourself for the fact that your friend may be mad or angry with you. Even though they may respond negatively, remind yourself that you did this out of love and respect for your friend. Usually once the person seeks the help they need, they will then acknowledge you as a true friend.

If you have a friend in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area who is in need of therapy, please have them contact my office for more information.

Couples – Make Time to Really Listen

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Listening is at the heart of quality communication. If you learn nothing else about communicating more effectively, at least learn this truth. Without listening skills, you do not have rapport with your partner and you cannot even stay on the same subject.

The next time you are having a discussion with your spouse, instead of planning your next comment, just listen and try to understand where your partner is coming from. Just understand; do not comment; do not judge. Listening goes a long way toward developing trust between marital partners.

There are three basic steps to being a good listener:

1. You must stay on the subject.
2. You must listen to be sure you are staying on the subject.
3. You must be flexible enough to adapt your behavior if you are not staying on the subject.

Don and Maria (names have been changed) were at an impasse and considering divorce when I first met them. In spite of the great deal they had in common, in spite of the love for each other that they had once felt, in spite of having three beautiful children and a successful business, Don and Maria were incredibly poor communicators when it came to listening to each other. Their lives were so full that they had little time to listen; they seldom made time even to fill each other in on the day's events.

Because they spent so little time together, they rarely communicated about anything. Unfortunately, when conflicts arose, the couple had no mechanism for solving them and retreated to their own separate worlds. The first step in bringing Don and Maria back together was to teach them how to listen and to make time for listening. When they scheduled fifteen minutes each day for uninterrupted listening to each other, they began to rekindle their friendship. Maria learned that Don felt very left out of the family because she handled all of their children's affairs without consulting him. Don learned that Maria felt devalued because he handled all of their financial affairs without consulting her. Furthermore, by just listening, this couple began to recognize that they had more in common than they had realized.

Once Dan and Maria made listening a priority in their lives, the problems began to melt away. So make time to listen. Pull out your calendar and schedule in some one-on-one time to communicate. If you need the assistance of a marriage counselor and live near Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington contact my office to schedule an appointment.

Just a Big Ego or Could It Be Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

According to Greek mythology, Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. The concept of a big ego has been recognized throughout history but it has only recently been defined as a psychological diagnosis – Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Perhaps you think that narcissism is just annoying. However, it is a serious diagnosis. People with this disorder have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Complications of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, when untreated can include: substance and alcohol abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, relationship difficulties and problems at school or work.

Narcissists come across as conceited, boastful and pretentious. This impacts everyone around them as they often monopolize conversations, look down on others as inferior and have a misplaced sense of entitlement. They insist on having "the best" of everything and can become easily angry when thwarted. Click here for a list of common symptoms as outlined by the Mayo Clinic. Or take the Narcissistic Personality Quiz at

Can narcissism be confused with strong self-esteem? No. Here’s the difference. Unlike narcissists, people who have healthy confidence and self-esteem don't value themselves more than they value others.

More than likely, it is the loved ones of a narcissist that see the need for professional help. If you are in a relationship with someone you suspect is a narcissist, get counseling for yourself immediately. A trained mental health professional can help you navigate this difficult relationship so you don’t sink into a dangerous cycle of codependency.

Should they choose to get help, therapy can greatly assist those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In the short-term psychotherapy would address issues as substance abuse, depression, and relationship issues. In the long-term goal the idea is to gradually reshape their personality so that they can create a healthier self-image and more enjoyable relationships.

If you need a diagnosis or counseling related to narcissism, in yourself or a loved one, contact my office if you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area to make an appointment.

Interview in “Everyday Health” – Coping with a Partner’s Asperger’s Syndrome

Friday, July 20, 2012

I was recently interviewed for an article in Everyday Health about Asperger Syndrome and relationships. The article is entitled, "Coping with a Partner's Asperger's Syndrome." I address the unique challenges that this situation creates as well as fours ways to cope when your partner has Asperger Syndrome.

Included in the article are two real life individuals with Asperger partners. Sharing these intimates details requires courage and I applaud them for sharing. There is also a nice plug for our local support group: Asperger Syndrome: Partner's and Family of Adults with ASD.

For more information about Asperger relationships, visit my website - Asperger's & Marriage. My book, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge? is also available.

Entrepreneurial Couples - Use Differences When Making Decisions

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Often you will find that there are major style and personality differences between male and female entrepreneurs. These differences become even more apparent when a husband and wife equally own and operate a company. Management, decision-making, even operations are powerfully influenced by a difference in entrepreneurial style. The integration of a male perspective and a female perspective can be quite an asset. Often times a husband and wife get stuck because they do not recognize the dynamic that is going on.

An interesting dynamic between entrepreneurial couples is how they make decisions. One way I sum it up is that men make the first best decision, but women seek out the best-best decision. Women want to look at all sides of an issue before deciding anything. They value everyone's opinion in the process of moving toward a decision. Men on the other hand seek to move the organization along as swiftly as possible. Regardless of everyone's view, men tend to value the efficiency of getting to the answer quickly.

How does this dynamic work when a husband/wife team needs to make decisions together? If they understand each other well, then the decision-making dynamic is powerful. If they don't, then each party can feel very misunderstood. How can this be done effectively? When a husband and wife work together there is the potential to create a strong leadership for their organization. When a husband recognizes that his wife needs an impartial discussion with a variety of options before deciding, she feels understood and more inclined to move toward decisive action. When a wife recognizes that her husband has a need to get things done as efficiently as possible, she can refocus her energy onto solutions, even if she would like just a little more discussion.

Put simply, when making a business decision as an entrepreneurial couple, work to combine the wife's strengths and the husband's strengths. Take what you know about each other and use it to the fullest to take your enterprise to a new height and enlighten the world with your success.

For more information on succeeding as an entrepreneurial couple, pick up your own personal copy of Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and at Home. This book will soon be available as an Ebook for entrepreneurial couples on the go, stay tuned for the release!

A New Kind of Therapy - Tough Love

Friday, May 25, 2012

Have you ever been around a whiner? Do you like listening to the negative, persistent complaining? Probably not. This type of communication leaves both parties drained instead of refreshed. Whining has a tendency to be prevalent in therapy sessions. The client comes in week after week with the same old problems that they like to vent about. Because of this, many therapists are changing their approach from unconditional love to tough love.

What is the reason for this shift? Whining and complaining doesn't solve problems. Therapists see the need for their clients to be more solution-oriented. They are looking to answer the question: What is the root of the whining? What truly is the problem? If the client is not looking to problem solve, then some therapists may end therapy until the client is ready for change.

How to get a whiner to change? In the article How to Stop Whining: Therapists Try Tough Love by Elizabeth Bernstein there are some excellent suggestions. For example: Create a good rapport with the whiner. Use commendation before counseling. Set a specific limit on how long complaints are allowed. Ask questions to draw out the individual and look for a real problem. Help the individual look for a solution by asking what they plan to do about it.

There are many more ideas, so I highly recommend reading the article. Even if you are not a therapist, I am sure you know a whiner or two. This might give you some tips of how to handle them.

Are you looking for solution-oriented therapy? Contact my office to set up an appointment if you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area. Click here to learn about Psychotherapy Options.

Entrepreneurial Couples - How to Give and Receive Criticism

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When couples work together they have the opportunity to work with a partner they love and trust most. They also have the opportunity to see the best and worst of their partner . . . day in and day out. Even with the most enlightened people, this constant togetherness can cause conflict. It's wonderful to have closeness, rapport, and regular praise from your sweetheart. It just doesn't feel as wonderful to have your partner know you so well that they give you regular criticism as well.

It is important to view criticism for what is really is . . . a critical analysis of your behaviors and an offering of advice on how to change, grow and improve yourself. If criticism is hard for you to take, try viewing it from this perspective. Criticism doesn't make you bad or undesirable. It is just feedback for your enlightenment. Everyone from time to time needs to check out old habits, rewrite some scripts, take a few risks, and try anything new to break out of a rut. If we don't attend to this we lose out personally.

If you are offering criticism to your spouse, here are a few things that you should keep mind. First, choose a good time. The right moment can make a huge difference in how the criticism is received. Second, be prepared to offer some sort of commendation along with the criticism. This will remind them that you do care and value them. Third, make sure that it is necessary criticism. It may be an issue that is really not that important or it might just be your inability to be flexible more than them needing to change.

Criticism is a vital tool that if used properly can make a person blossom for the good. For more information, read my article - Entrepreneurial Couples Can Transform Criticism into Feedback.

Want to learn more about the rewards and challenges of working with your spouse? Visit Entrepreneurial Life - Couples at Work and Home

Sweat the Small Stuff When Co-Parenting With an Asperger Partner

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Have you ever heard the expression, "Don't sweat the small stuff?" I'm sure you have. Sadly this expression does not work if you are co-parenting with an Asperger partner. (Asperger Syndrome is a high form of autism. Common symptoms include lack of empathy, impaired use of nonverbal behavior to regulate social behavior, and lack of social and emotional reciprocity. For more information, visit Asperger Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions)

When you are in a relationship with an Aspie and co-parenting, your life is turned upside down every day because of the "small stuff." Small stuff is the problem and if you ignore it, it may lead to dire consequences. What can you do to work through this problem? Learn to attend to the things that you can and let the rest go. Easier said than done, right?

You may not be able to change the situation you are in, but you can change how to react or respond. In order to do this in a healthy and positive way, you must take care of yourself. Learn all that you can about Asperger Syndrome. Doing this will help you somewhat to detach from emotional distress you face while dealing with the small things. Also, take out a little time for yourself every day. That may sound impossible, but if you do not, you will spiral down into a dark place and then who will be there for your family? So, prioritize and drop the rest.

My upcoming book is entitled, Parenting with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Mind, Out of Sight. A FREE sample chapter is available for download. You can also checkout my AAPC bestseller, Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge?, which focuses on relationships and marriage with an Asperger partner.

If you live in the area you can join me May 19, 2012 at 1:00 PM in Portland, Oregon for the Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Support Group. We will be discussing, "Would we marry them again?"

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