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[This document reproduces materials and notes from a workshop on healthy love led by Virginia Clemente. Permission to reproduce was given by the workshop materials. The sections "Family of Origin System", "Lifting Up, Letting Go, Sending Away", and the "Spiritual Exercises" were provided as a handout. The sections "Love", "Conditions Of Birth", "Healthy Love", and "Stages Of Healthy Love" were provided on the blackboard. My notes from the lecture and from the board are marked with [brackets]. Wherever this document preserves the original insights and style, the credit goes to Virginia, and wherever it misses, the fault is mine. —Edward M.]


[Love is such an ambiguous word. Healthy love is a state of being, a verb. You "feel" love as an emotion in the act of loving or receiving love.]

Family of Origin System

[Your family of origin is where you learned how to love, be loved, what love is about. It is the primary agent of socialization. You did not come into the world without a history. The family of origin sets the pattern for how to love and how to feel love. Little children love unconditionally until they discover they cannot for some reason.

[For example, think about the response when you walked into the room. Were you often criticized? Ignored? Were you smiled at pleasantly? This is the pattern you will follow in your own relationships. (From The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.)

[Next, consider a boy child of a broken marriage living with his mother. She, having lost a bond to her husband, will often treat the boy as a substitute, creating an inappropriate bond between them and also weakening the bond between the boy and his father:

       M ----> | <---- F
          _    |      /
         |          |_
           \     _ 
            _|   /|

This creates an unhealthy pattern in the boy for how to love and how to feel love as an adult.]

       +--------------+ +--------------+
       |Paternal      | |Maternal      |
       |Great         | |Great         |
       |Grandparents  | |Grandparents  |
       +--------------+ +--------------+
                |                |
       +--------------+ +--------------+
       |Paternal      | |Maternal      |
       |Grandparents  | |Grandparents  |
       |              | |              |
       +--------------+ +--------------+
                |                |
       |             F   M             |
       |             O   O             |
       |             O<->O             |
       |             O   O             |
       |            Parents            |
  Self |           O   O   O           |
<----------------->O   O   O           |
       |           O   O   O           |
       |            Siblings           |
       |Community     Economics        |
       |Education     Government       |
       |Religion      Social Influences|

         Virginia G. Clemente, M.A.,LMFT

Spiritual Exercise

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Directions: On the top box list all the things you loved about your
            family of origin.

            On the bottom box list some things that were negative
            about your family.

[Common ways to protect yourself from fear of abandonment or emotional rejection:

  o  set up the relationship to fail so you won't feel the pain -- if there is any
     chance at all you will leave me, I will leave you first to have control and
     spare myself the pain

  o  no boundaries -- allow the other person to do anything to you as long as they
     do not leave

You will find that in your relationships, the things you loved about your family
of origin will be the things you share; the things that were negative about your
family will keep you disconnected and be buttons that get pushed by the other person.]

Spiritual Exercise: Problem People

Permission to reproduce

People that disconnect me from God

Directions: Work through this exercise. Do not name a person.

(list only "male" or "female")




[why am I still in the relationship]

[how do I maintain the relationship]

Spiritual Exercise: Godly People

Permission to reproduce

Every one needs at least four soul friends.

Directions: List your Soul Friends.




Lifting Up, Letting Go, Sending Away

Releasing fear, anger and resentment through the process of forgiveness

Forgiveness is a process which is essential to healthy living and becoming whole as a person. It is a process to be entered with care and integrity; it is certainly more than merely saying the words "I forgive you". In scripture, forgiveness means "to lift up, let go and send away" one's fear, anger and resentment. It is a process of grace, or "lovingkindness".

In any broken relationship, there is always some wrongdoing on the part of both parties. Therefore, forgiveness is always conditional upon repentance.

[Forgiving does not mean condoning or accepting behavior such as deceit and betrayal. It is about how we can feel good about ourselves. There must be integrity in "I love you, I'm sorry, please forgive me" or it's ludicrous. One must change the behavior.]

Forgiving and being forgiven go hand in hand. Although we have no control over the other party, we can express our part in the wrong-doing. It is part of the letting go of anger and healing process. The following is offered as a guideline to the forgiving process. It is offered to those who, in all likelihood, grieve the permanent loss of a relationship.

  1. Identify and list your losses [things that should have been done]
    1. Express them to God in prayer and/or in writing
    2. List both real and neurotic losses [neurotic losses: false beliefs--need to let these go]
    3. Express the losses to the estranged person, if possible and/or appropriate
    4. Express the losses to a close friend, minister or counselor
  2. Grieve the losses
    1. Feel and express the pain, anger and sadness. Do not allow anyone to negate or minimize your grief
    2. Identify and express what you fear most as a result of the loss
  3. Identify and express your personal regrets and wrongdoing in the relationship
    1. If you can't think of any, go back and review your list of neurotic losses
    2. Be specific! Wrongdoings must be stated in terms of behavior -- something you said or did
    3. Express your wrongdoings to God in prayer and/or in writing
    4. Express your wrongdoings to the estranged person if possible and/or appropriate. Do not do this unless it would be helpful and "uplifting". Do not do it if you are in a superior/inferior state of mind
    5. Express your wrongdoings to a close friend, minister or counselor
  4. Forgive and seek forgiveness
    1. This is the "lifting up and letting go" process, rarely a one time event
    2. Forgive and ask for forgiveness in prayer
    3. If possible and/or appropriate, in general terms state wrongdoings to the estranged person. "Both of us have done wrong and mistakes in our relationship. I wish to acknowledge them and put them to rest."
  5. List your gains from the experience of the relationship
    1. In every gain there is loss and in every loss there is gain! Express them to God in prayer and/or in writing
    2. Express them to the estranged person if possible and/or appropriate
    3. Express them to a close friend, minister or counselor
  6. Redefine the relationship
    1. Do you care enough to start anew? If so, under what conditions? Will you be friends? Will you limit the relationship to business or parenting?
      [Concept of "creative neglect": when Virginia visits with her family, she does so at their home or some other place that she can leave when she chooses. When she recognizes inappropriateness such as critical remarks, she thanks them for their hospitality and leaves. She has found over time that they have learned and she is able to stay for longer and longer times.]
    2. Release the relationship, if appropriate. "Lovingkindness" may be caring enough to let go permanently. [You may need to do this if the other person cannot "not do" what they do.]

Material compiled by:
Virginia G. Clemente MA, LMFT

Spiritual Exercise


  1. What did love look like in your family?
  2. What did love feel like to you...
    1. the first 17 years of your life?
    2. when you were (or are) a young adult?
    3. assuming you are older (40+)?
  3. Is there a pattern in your adult or present love relationship that is related to your early childhood experiences?
  4. Is this a negative or a positive experience for you? Both?
  5. What are some of your relationship issues?

Conditions Of Birth

["precious child" concept]
(filled with love and grace)
helpless - powerless
dependent - immature
needy - vulnerable
(dependent on others for these, and when they are not met, it's easy to lose sight of your preciousness)

[That was you at birth and still is. Now, in the context of the "precious child" concept, what does this mean to feeling lovable and worthy? Who are you really? What is your purpose? It means that we are all worthy of love, and that love is an act of meeting another precious child's needs.]

Healthy Love

            /  \
           /    \
          /      \
         / esteem \
        /----------\           .
       /            \         / \      [safety is the "love" in a love relationship
      /    safety    \         |       because the opposite of love is fear (unsafety)]
     /----------------\      gives
    /                  \    rise to    [when we do not feel connected/bonded to parents,
   /  connected bonded  \      |       we become connected/bonded to things]
  /----------------------\     |
 /                        \    |
/   physio-bio: touching   \   |

[The Healthy Love pyramid teaches about four basic needs that all children have and that become the foundation for healthy bonding as an adult. Esteem is founded on the more fundamental need for safety, and so on down the pyramid. It teaches that if one of the more fundamental basic needs are unavailable, then the basic needs it supports are also unavailable. If these basic needs are not met in childhood (the first 17 years of life, but most especially early childhood in the first 6 years of life), then the deprivation puts wounds in you so huge that they are hard to heal. We have trouble then with healthy bonding. We spend a lifetime looking for someone to do for us what was never done here; expectations are so unrealistic that they can never be met. He or she is not out there that can take that responsibility. BUT: through forgiveness and grief you can heal this wound and have control in a relationship over what happens around the wound.]

Stages Of "Healthy" Love

[These are steps to intimacy. They are listed in the order given because they also function as "checkpoints" you can use to gauge the ability that you and your partner have to give and accept healthy love. It's risky to jump to the later stages before you find out if you and the other person can manage the earlier ones.]


[Can each of you educate the other about yourselves? Who are you? What is your purpose? What legacy will you leave?]


[Can each of you show your feelings? Some people can't feel grief, or empathy.]


[Can each of you show love appropriately? Show appreciation? Do things for people?]


[Can each of you find out why and share why you do what you do—what is the logic? Everyone has logic for what they do, even the outwardly crazy things. This sharing allows the other person to be more compassionate. Many marriages are absent this.]


[Can each of you validate the other's existence, even the crazy moments? The ability to validate can only come from the sharing in the previous steps. Most marriages are absent this.]

Sexual / sensual

[Can each of you express healthy, loving sexuality? Otherwise, it is a friendship. Most couples skip to this step long before they have learned whether they are able to share at the earlier levels. The risk is that at the level of sexual involvement two people one may become entangled (emotionally, as parents, financially, etc.) without the capability to sustain a long term relationship.]

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