A common theme in marriage is a relational dynamic I call “the Savior & the Goat”. Typical Saviors and Goats are initially attracted to each other because of function; each person serves an unconscious role of utility and psychological soothing. For example, if I have a high level of self-contempt (Goat), I will find someone who reaffirms my negative beliefs about myself. If I have a propensity toward the sin of pride and narcissism (Savior), I will find someone who reaffirms my deity status, who needs me, and who I can unconsciously save. This relational dynamic causes both parties to no longer see each other as human, because all mutuality is lost to the extreme high/low relational status.
The Savior and Goat are not limited to gender; I have seen many Savior men and Savior women, as well as many Goat men and Goat women. This is a common way of relating for men and women. It has less to do with gender and more to do with each partner’s story and/or healing of that story.
We live into the roles we were given. How many of you as a child dreamed of being a princess? Though that is not every little girl’s fantasy, it is a common cultural norm, one that many women still unconsciously hold. They want a savior: a big, strong man to rescue them. The problem is that this is not realistic. Men are sinful and unable to heal the young places within you that still need your attention and care. Men, how many of you want a “savior” woman to love you in the places your mother did not? Are you unconsciously reaching out to your partner for her to heal your childhood mother wound? Many of us who are “Goats” are looking toward our partners to save us when we should be looking to the God who lives within us.
When we bring awareness to our roles, we can begin to change our unhealthy styles of relating into more healthy ones. To clarify, these are not hard and fast categories, sometimes you can be a “Savior” one day and slip into the “Goat” role the next. These are generalized, and even if you don’t fit the entire category it doesn’t mean that is doesn’t hold some truth for your life or in your relationship. Take what is helpful and leave the rest that does not apply to you and your partner, make it your own.
I will first define the Savior’s role; who they think they are, what a typical Savior struggles with, and what redemption for a Savior will look like.
Defining Savior: They think they are…
Right more often
Closer to God
The Emotionally Healthy One
The Smart One
The Competent One
A Savior’s Struggles:
High level of pride
Has a difficult time seeing their sin clearly
Rarely or never apologizes
Not truly emotionally vulnerable
Focuses on their partner’s faults more than their own
Two-faced: different in private vs. public
Redemption for a Savior Looks Like:
An increased awareness of their sin
No more duality- private vs. public persona
Sincere reflection and apology
Seeing the other with empathy
What about the Goat category? Let look at who they think they are, what a typical Goat struggles with and what redemption for a Goat will look like.
Defining Goat: They think they are…
Less than their partner
More often wrong
Not as smart
Not in Touch with Self or God
More sinful than their partner. Their sin tends to be more visible ie. Drugs, Sex, Rock & Roll
A Goat’s Struggles:
Can lash out because of unprocessed shame
Stays stuck in past sins
Works hard to earn love or favor
Apologizes too often
Takes on other peoples’ problems as their own
Wanting to be Parented by Partner
Redemption for a Goat Looks Like:
An ownership of glory and goodness
Holistic perspective of the future
Liberation from past sin & shame
If the Savior & Goat dynamic is in your relationship, it removes mutuality in the relationship and sets up a hierarchy of power that is incompatible with healthy intimacy and genuine connection. The Goat must move toward a healthier view of self,and so must the Savior. After years of this toxic style of relating, the Goat must inflate and the Savior must deflate for mutuality to become the new normal. Both partners equal in power, both bringing their full voice and full truth to the relationship, both risking vulnerability for the sake of healthy intimacy and connection.