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Constellation Therapy 6/8: The Legacy of Broken Promises

The notion of inherited ‘relationship promises’ can shed a helpful light on difficulties within couples – including a common experience for many women of feeling ‘unseen’ within their relationship. In the sixth part of her blog series, Nicola Mackay, a clinical physicist turned constellation therapist and researcher, shares how constellation work with one couple helped them to remove an invisible barrier to commitment.

Love, and our very human need to love and be loved, is the driver for so many people seeking clarity from constellation. The relationship field and the patterns associated hold some of the most complex entanglements.

The relationship promise

There is a conscious and unconscious relationship promise at the core of every single relationship. Every single one. And the promise can be held by one or both partners long after the relationship itself has ended.

In general, the promise will represent the known and unknown, seen and unseen, aspects of a relationship. There is often more held in the promise than the relationship between the couple in question.

There are two different types of relationship patterns to be aware of within constellation:  

  1. Promises and broken promises from former relationships that get carried into the next relationship. 
  2. The inheritance of promises and broken promises from our family and ancestral field. 

The common denominator in both is the inheritance of the relationship promise.

The most common relationship promise entanglements I see are:

  • You or your partner’s ex having a place in your current relationship promise.  
  • The inheritance of aspects of your parent’s relationship promise. When you or your partner unknowingly hold a parental relationship promise you can unconsciously be representing your partner’s parent for them and vice versa. 
  • The holding of the broken promises relating to your father’s previous loves. 
  • The inheritance of broken promises and lost loves in the ancestral field.

For women in particular, this results in becoming an ‘unseen woman’ in their relationship and a repetition of similar relationship experiences with any new partner.

Clearing a place for love in the present

Rachael came to see me to work on her relationship with her partner, Dan. Rachael was convinced that he was scared of marriage and although she described them as being very much in love, she felt there was an invisible barrier within their relationship when it came to the next steps. She described her former relationships as having a similar pattern of men not wanting to commit. She was concerned about this happening again.

In any relationship constellation, the first step is to explore the relationship promise between the couple and how comfortable it is for the couple to stand together side by side, looking at whether the promise is actually between the couple in question or if there are other aspects being held within it.

Within the initial constellation it can be seen that the placement is adversarial rather than supportive of one another. Rachael placed them at opposite sides of the relationship promise and neither one was looking at the other. They each were pulled to look behind them.

As the map unfolded it became clear that both Rachael and Dan were entangled with their parents and their parents’ promises and broken promises.


  1. Rachael was unconsciously holding the place of her father’s former love and wasn’t fully free to hold a place within her relationship with Dan because of that.
  2. Dan was within an inherited parental relationship promise where he was waiting for his mother to see him.
  3. As Dan waits to be seen by his mother, he is unconsciously representing her lost love.

As part of the disentangling for both Rachael and Dan, we worked with a directed narrative (see blog 3) including:

I didn’t know you were there.
I can feel your place now.
I can feel what you lost.

There was a significant emotional release at this point.

This promise was between you both.
It is broken now.
You are more than the broken promise.
I am more than the broken promise.
I didn’t take them from you.
They made a different choice.

And then to their parents:

Part of me has been holding this for you.
I can’t hold it any more.
You have a responsibility here.

At this point, Rachael and Dan were able to stand next to one another comfortably and both see the relationship promise that was just for them.

It can feel daunting to step into a created constellation to explore relationship connections but having the courage to look back, and give place to what was, clears a place for love in the present.

In our next blog we will be exploring what happens in the vulnerable space that exists between looking back at our ancestors and turning to face forward in the direction of our descendants. 


Nikki Mackay

Nikki Mackay (BSc, MSc) is a Family & Ancestral Constellation therapist and teacher. She previously worked as a Clinical Physicist within the NHS, specialising in Neurophysiological measurement and exploring the efficacy of energy healing on the autonomic nervous system. Nicola has been in private practice for 20 years. She has a busy therapy practice and teaching school based in Western Europe and the USA and offers training, workshops and individual family constellation therapy. Since 2016 she has been exploring the possibilities of constellations at a macro level, working with the International Relations Department of a University in Scotland looking at using constellations as a tool for understanding collective memory and trauma. Her fifth book, Your Invisible Inheritance,  was published by Rebel Magic Books in May 2020. She can be contacted at

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