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Kathy Marshack News

Does Trying to Converse with your Aspie Partner Wear You Out?

Sunday, July 06, 2014


difficult talking with asperger partnerPleasant conversation is governed by unspoken rules. We listen carefully, ask relevant questions, make eye contact, show genuine interest in the one we’re conversing with and we don’t interrupt or go off on unrelated tangents. All of this social give-and-take is very difficult for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Their lack of social awareness and empathy allows them do insensitive things or blurt out inappropriate comments.

Because of not knowing or understanding the rules, our Aspies tend to either control or avoid the conversation or the situation. Because they don't really understand where their partner is coming from, they feel really anxious, and they conclude that the best solutions to their discomfort is to dominate the conversation or avoid the subject entirely.

Often those with Asperger’s find it impossible to say “No”. If they receive an invitation and they want to participate, they can easily say “Yes”. However, they resort to the avoidance mechanism rather than actually decline an invitation. It’s just too much to acknowledge the person and say "No". So they avoid the person that invites them until it all blows over.

Another social norm that Aspies struggle with is saying “Thank you”. You might ask him if he would like a cup of coffee. Rather than answering, the Aspie just talks on about something that interests him. When he gets the cup of coffee, he takes it and happily drinks the beverage, but acknowledging it is just too personal for him.

How can it be that these simple interchanges are so difficult for our Aspie loved ones? The simple empathic process that Neuro-typicals use daily to acknowledge the other person is lost on Aspies. Why is that?

More importantly, are these simple not-so-ordinary moments wearing you down?

Join us Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 1:00pm PST at our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Meetup in Vancouver, Washington as we discuss the topic, Aspies Tend to Avoid or Control. We’ll discuss the reasons behind this behavior and the best ways to cope. 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 Friday, July 25, 2014 at 2:30pm PST and connect with our international group of supporters.

Notice: This is the last Meetup until October 2014 due to a very busy summer schedule. I will continue to check in daily with our Meetup postings, so let’s keep the spirit and conversation alive.

Read a free chapter of “Our of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”. This book discusses the science behind Aspie behavior and how you can initiate the rules of engagement that help your Aspie give you the emotional support that you need.

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.

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.

Tips on Finding the Right Support Group For You

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Finding the Best Support Group for YouWe all need someone to talk with that understands our unique situation and non-judgmentally supports us as we travel through our journey of life. A good Support Group will provide you with needed emotional support and often give you information on the latest treatment or research on your particular concern. In today’s technological world, you can either attend a local Support Group in person or you can join an online Support Group.

But you may have some questions before joining … How can you be sure the group you’re joining is going to be a healthy environment for you? What are some ways of identifying a good Support Group? I found an informative article written by John Grohol Psy.D, founder of PsychCentral.com that can help you identify characteristics of a good Support Group. Some of these are listed below:

A good Support Group has a community that is stable. You can determine this by how well it’s moderated and how long it’s been functioning. A group that has a moderator AND an administrative team will be able to continually bring new resources to you without the group leader burning out and shutting the group down.

Find a Support Group with members who are welcoming, non-judgmental and open to sharing. You want to be encouraged, not discouraged, in your chosen group.

The best Support Group has a non-techy, user-friendly site. If you’re stressing out over the tech stuff, you won’t be reaping any benefits from the group.

A reasonable Support Group clearly posts its guidelines and rules of conduct so everyone knows the boundaries of what’s acceptable and what’s not.

A secure Support Group guards your privacy so nothing you say is splashed across the worldwide web inadvertently.

Look for a Support Group that offers you the features that are important to you. Are you interested in just reading what people have posted or do you desire more, such as mood tracking tools, treatment or product reviews, or a live chat room?

I facilitate two very supportive and secure Meetups. One is for Entrepreneurial Couples and Families. The other is for Partners & Family of Adults with Asperger Syndrome. Both of these Groups have local Meetups and International Teleconferences that are uniting members around the world.

I’m very excited about my newest Support Group – a Meetup for ENTREPRENEURS-Making It Work for Couples and Families. We focus on learning to balance Work and Love, the two things entrepreneurial families cherish most. The local Meetup is held once a month in Vancouver, Washington.

The Meetup for Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with AS has been supporting Neuro-Typicals who care for adult Aspie family since 2009. At our last call our international AS Group included people from around the globe. The local Meetup is held once a month in Portland, Oregon.

I am passionate about providing ongoing education for these two diverse topics. My team and I are working hard to provide you with a secure environment the gives the support you crave and deserve. If you have any questions about either one of these Meetup Support Groups, please feel free to contact us.

Coping With Asperger Eccentric Mannerisms and Behavior

Friday, April 11, 2014


Asperger Syndrome MeetupPeople with Asperger’s Syndrome often develop mannerisms and behaviors that can be very distracting and even annoying to Neuro-Typical family members. There are a number of reasons why they display this behavior. One reason is that their senses are overly stimulated. Another reason is that these Asperger mannerisms are a way of creating order in their disrupted world.

For example, their over-sensitivity to touch may make them picky about what clothes they wear – it needs to be soft with the tags removed. They don’t like strong smells, bright lights, loud noises, and most foods. Aspies rigidly crave routine so any variations in their schedule upset them. The same plate has to be used for dinner, objects must be lined up in a repetitive manner, certain items must never be moved, and the list of Asperger eccentricities goes on and on.

What’s up with these eccentricities? Why does one person eat an orange by peeling the membrane off of each segment and then eats one kernel at a time? Why does another collect lint and roll it into a ball to keep in a jar? And still others hoard everything that comes into the house? Nothing can be thrown away, even shoes that are holey and beyond the point of wearing.

What can family members do to deal with these Asperger mannerisms so that it doesn’t drive you crazy? You can find ways to accept these eccentricities if you understand the reason behind this Asperger behavior. Sharing information about “What’s Up with these Aspie Eccentricities” is the topic for our next Portland, Oregon Meetup on Saturday, April 19, 2014.

The same topic will be discussed on our Teleconference Meetup – Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with AS on Friday, April 25, 2014. If you are a Neuro-Typical family member who needs someone to talk with that truly understands what you’re going through, please join us in this discussion. We’re here to support you. These calls are uniting our members from around the world from Canada, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Great Britain, South America and more!

For greater understanding of your relationship with your Asperger’s Syndrome family member, check out my book, Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD). It picks up where my first book, Going Over the Edge? left off and goes into more depth about the science behind Asperger’s.

NEW MEETUP: ENTREPRENEURS – Making It Work for Couples and Families!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Entrepreneurial Couples Making it Work at Work and at HomeHave you ever felt alone? Like you’re the only one going through a unique situation? Of course, you know there are support groups for people with addiction problems, family crises, and so forth, but it’s hard for entrepreneurial couples to find people who understand the unique challenges you face. Many of your peers may be going through the same things, and they may complain about it, but few are talking about how to solve the problems.

I’m happy to announce that there is now a place for you to gather with fellow entrepreneurial couples who are struggling with the same issues you are such as...

  • No boundaries between home and work. 
  • A lack of intimacy because all you talk about is work.
  • No time to focus on personal rejuvenation.
  • Avoidance techniques instead of meaningful communication on problems.
  • Parenting conflicts, especially when kids begin working for the family business.

I’ve organized a monthly, local Meetup in Vancouver, Washington. If you become part of our group, you’ll be sent an email with the date, time and location.

What is a local Meetup?

Meetup is the world's largest online networking service that helps anyone organize a local group so people with similar interests can meet face-to-face. This is a great resource for entrepreneurial couples and families in business together.

You know that hard work and discipline are needed to launch a business. No less is needed to keep it going. The same is true for our loving relationships. But the pressures of work can get in the way of love. Our new Meetup group is designed to help entrepreneurs get the tools to make it work at work and at home. Learn how to meet the challenges and stresses of working with your spouse and family so you can have the best of both worlds - a successful business and a strong relationship with your family.

If you live in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington you can join us in person for our first Meetup ENTREPRENEURS – Making it Work for Couples and Families in May. We’ll have a chance to share a meal together and discuss our experiences and ways to look at your situation from a new perspective.

And I have more great news! I know many of you would love to be there in person but can’t because the distance is just too far to travel. I’m arranging to provide the same opportunity for meeting fellow entrepreneurial couples via a free conference call. True, we won’t be sharing a meal, but on the plus side you get to stay at home and get practical advice on how to cope with your unique entrepreneurial challenges. I know you’re going to want to take advantage of this opportunity.

The doors are open and you can sign up today to be part of this special community of people who truly know what you’re going through. And I’ll use my 30 plus years of experience as a psychologist and family business coach to guide you toward healthier thoughts and actions. Plus you’ll have access to a safe, members-only online community. See you soon.

In preparation for our Meetup and to lay the groundwork, I encourage you to grab a copy of my book, Entrepreneurial Couples Making it Work at Work and at Home.

Is There “Shame” in being Married to Someone with Asperger’s?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Asperger Syndrome Parnters and Family of Adults with ASDLet me say this right up front…No, I don’t think it’s shameful to acknowledge that your spouse suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a highly functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Nor is it shameful that your spouse has Asperger’s. But, the shame associated with living with Aspies can be extreme for some.

There’s such a stigma against being “labeled” Asperger or Autistic, that Aspies may fear losing their standing in the community or their business relationships, so they don’t want anyone to know of the diagnosis, if indeed they consent to being diagnosed at all. This puts pressure on the Neuro-typical family members to hide what their lives are really like. In fact, Neuro-typicals are terrified to come out of the closet and talk about their lives.

NT family members work so hard to please the person on the spectrum that they aren’t able to live their authentic selves. The Aspie thinks everything is fine and normal, but you can see your friends having loving relationships and you know that’s not what you have. Yet, you may start doubting yourself, thinking that maybe it is your fault, blaming yourself that you’re unlovable and unreasonable in your expectations. The pressure of keeping it secret and not having anyone who understands to talk to can make you question your own sanity.

This situation is so similar to the cycle of abuse. The victim is terrified to confront the abuser. They fear retaliation. But even worse, they fear that they are wrong about the abuse . . . and the abuser.

Sadly the nature of living in these relationships is that they cause confusion and defensiveness and shame. If we are to restore our lives to sanity, we need to be honest about our feelings and our situation. This doesn't mean blame and it doesn't mean shame. It means facing the problem squarely and developing a solution that works.

If you are a member of our Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Families of Adults with ASD, please join us for “The Skeleton in the Closet”. We’ll be discussing questions such as…why are we afraid to discuss our feelings or complain about our Aspie family members…and why are we afraid to admit we have failed in our relationships? Our Local Meetup will be on March 15th at 1:00pm PST.

The International Teleconference will be on March 28th at 2:30pm PST. Our first Teleconference was greeted with heartfelt thanks. One member wrote, “It is a small world when we all share the same difficulties, whether we're in London or LA. I think the teleconference was fantastic and absolutely historic. Look forward to talking to you all again in March!”

To be a member of Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Families of Adults with ASD Meetup you must be a Neuro-typical family member who loves and cares for an adult with Asperger Syndrome because we meet to openly discuss issues and concerns without hindrance of saving someone’s feelings. After joining the group you will receive an email with all the details. Join me on Facebook and let me know your thoughts on this.

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.

Asperger Relationships: Coping with Unremitting Grief

Monday, June 10, 2013


When you love someone with Asperger Syndrome, you may hit a point where you grieve. You may be grieving over the relationship or for the loss of a dream. The problem with this grief is it may not be going away. When you continue to live with your Asperger partner, your keep triggering the loss. You feel it over and over again.

But what is going on when years later you are still so depressed, forlorn, and fatigued over the loss of your dream? I have heard some define this as "Ongoing Traumatic Relationship Disorder". I believe the symptoms are very similar to depression, but of a grief that never goes away or unremitting grief.

On June 15, 2013, Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Families of Adults with ASD will be meeting in Portland, Oregon to discuss the topic, "Unremitting Grief." Sharing stories and giving input from only those who have walked in these shoes can help to bind up the broken hearts of others. Come and join us and share what you know about "unremitting grief." This will be the last Meetup until September and it will not be one to miss. Click on the link for membership details.

Download a free sample chapter of Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going Over the Edge.

5 Mothers and Their Fight Against Autism

Friday, April 12, 2013


With autism statistics rising, a group of five courageous mothers are taking note of the disorder and how it is affecting African American and Hispanic children in the United States. Colored My Mind is a non-profit organization whose mission "is to educate, enlighten, and empower parents whose children are on the ASD spectrum throughout communities nationwide." 


The founders of Colored My Mind are working hard to see that minorities are receiving practical assistance when it comes to treatment and diagnoses for ASD children. Many in the African American and Hispanic community struggle getting health care and special education for their AS child and sadly some have dealt with negative racial bias. The goal is to educate all people regardless of race and nationality. Their story will appears in a documentary entitled, Colored My Mind, and will show at The Cannes Film Festival in May 2013. 


To learn more about this organization and the work they are doing to bring much need awareness about autism, visit Colored My Mind




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