The gendergram: charting your childhood influences

There is a new personal peace plan to help warring couples, called the Gendergram, which can often bring the most entrenched hostilities to a halt. The idea is that most relationship battles revolve around the same territory because each one of a couple will be making unspoken assumptions about what the other is supposed to do, without even realising it.

Take Charles and Sue. She says, "Do you love me?" To which he replies: "Of course I do." Sue: "How can I tell? You don't even like me much, except when you want sex." Charles, furious: "I go to work, I bring back the money, I help with the children, I don't sleep with anyone else. What more do you want?"

Charles and Sue are in the ring because they have different rules about how men and women behave when they love someone. "There are no rules about gender any more, so everyone makes up their own," says the originator of the Gendergram, Dr Mark White. "Then we assume that what we do is normal, and that anyone who does it differently is crazy/ impossible/ an insensitive slob."

We don't tell each other our rules because usually we aren't aware of them. For the lucky few, harmony reigns because they share the same unconscious rules: "we both help around the house", or "I do the money, you do the kids." But all too often there is a mismatch, and that's when the fights start. The Gendergram is a way of spelling out those hidden assumptions, which are all rooted in childhood.

To bring about a ceasefire:

1 Take a pen and paper, draw a circle in the middle, representing yourself as child, then write the names of significant people - Mum, Dad, aunts, baby-sitter - with a plus for the positive ones and a minus for the negative.

2 Write a line or two under each. What sort of things did they do? What did they tell you about men and women? How did they behave? How did you like it?

3 Look for a pattern. It can help to ask questions about what kind of gender rules were absorbed, such as "boys don't cry". Which ones did you learn from the way you saw other people behaving? What did you learn from the way you were treated?

4 Repeat for whatever stages of your life you feel are relevant, usually adolescence and childhood, and for the opposite sex.

Patterns will emerge quite quickly, and you can begin to discuss differences without climbing into the ring. Once you know where some of the patterns have come from, then you can decide whether they are useful, or could do with changing.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Office and Customer Services Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small but very busy (and f...

    Recruitment Genius: Portfolio Administrator

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...

    Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer - Midlands

    £35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales / Account Manager

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales / Account Manager is re...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot