1. What Is Weaponized Incompetence?
"Weaponized incompetence refers to one partner in a relationship choosing to approach a task with little to no effort so as to not be asked to repeat that task in the future," LaSov explains. "The reason why this is considered weaponizing is that it puts the onus on the other partner to not only have to pick up the slack and fix the first task that was mediocrely executed, but that person is also left responsible for picking up the slack on future tasks. This is unfair to the partner putting in the work and it creates inequality in the partnership." You might be wondering, But what if my partner is genuinely unable, and not being deceitful? That very well may be the case, but if they're honestly just not good at something, they'll take the time to learn how to do the task at hand, versus continuing to push it onto your plate because they "can't do it."
2. What Are Some Warning Signs to Look Out for?
LaSov notes that no one particularly likes doing chores, but there should be the expectation that each person in a relationship will put in 50 percent. "What we often see happening is that one partner will say, 'I have no idea how to do that,' or 'I am not very good at that so you should do it,' to avoid having to be bothered," she adds. "Typically, it’s been reported that this seemingly lazy behavior is commonly found in hetero relationships, where the man is feigning incompetence so that his female partner can pick up the slack." (Weaponized incompetence, in general, is more common in men than in women.)
A few phrases to look out for include:
- "You're so much better at this than I am, can you just do it?"
- "I never do this as well as you do."
- "This is going to take me forever, can't you just do it quickly? You're so much faster than I am."
3. Is This a New Phenomenon, or Has Social Media Made People More Aware?
In LaSov's opinion, this is absolutely not a new phenomenon, but putting a name to it on social media makes the behavior more identifiable. She tells us, "There have been inequalities in relationships since the beginning of time, most commonly within hetero relationships, where the man thinks his contributions to the household are 'helping' his wife."
4. If You Feel Like This Is Happening in Your Relationship, What Can You Do About It?
The first thing to do is identify a pattern of this behavior. "Make sure that your partner is not just having an off day or feeling lackadaisical for other reasons," LaSov says. "Weaponized incompetence refers to a continual behavior that is typically intentional, rather than a few occurrences where someone is unhelpful. If you deem that your partner is pretending to be incompetent to avoid contributing to the relationship, my advice would be to confront this behavior head-on. You can acknowledge that household chores, let’s say, are not desirable to anyone, but the expectation is that both of you are capable and willing to partake in those activities."