How It Damages a Relationship

For anybody who has lived with a companion, deciding the right way to share family duties generally is a chore by itself. Generally, one individual might tackle further duties akin to when their companion is sick or busy with work. However when you’re all the time doing the laundry or purchasing for groceries as a result of, as your companion claims, “you’re higher at it,” this can be an indication of weaponized incompetence.

“Weaponized incompetence in romantic relationships refers back to the intentional use of incompetence or helplessness as a method to govern or management a companion,” says therapist Benu Lahiry, LMFT, chief medical officer at premarital counseling platform Ours. For instance, somebody might delay a easy job till their companion provides in and does it themselves. Or, they may feign ignorance, maybe pretending to not know the telephone variety of the veterinary clinic or what model of cleaning soap to purchase.

This habits isn’t restricted to romantic relationships, both. Weaponized incompetence may also occur with associates, relations, and colleagues like, for instance, when junior or feminine staff1 turn into the de facto note-takers or get together planners. Whoever is concerned, this habits can erode belief in a relationship and result in an unequal division of labor.

Who does weaponized incompetence have an effect on?

One other time period for this phenomenon, strategic incompetence, has been utilized in company circles for many years to explain when “a employee claims incompetence to go off duties to colleagues,” says medical psychologist Wendy Walsh, PhD, relationship knowledgeable at DatingAdvice.com. “Extra just lately, it has entered the lexicon of web relationship bloggers when referring to lazy companions, who’re most frequently male.” TikTok movies depicting this habits have gone viral, such because the considered one of a girl who created an in depth grocery checklist for her husband together with a map of the shop, or the considered one of daughters chastising their dad for forgetting cups when he units the desk—his solely job at Thanksgiving.

Weaponized incompetence can have an effect on anybody, however it might have a disproportionate impact on girls due to conventional gender roles and cultural expectations of girls as caregivers and homemakers, Lahiry says. “When a companion exploits these stereotypes, it creates an setting the place girls really feel compelled to accommodate their companion’s perceived incompetence,” she provides. We even have analysis displaying that girls are usually extra concerned in chores related to feminine stereotypes2 like childcare whereas males are inclined to carry out historically masculine duties like residence repairs and budgeting.

Equally, a examine of dual-earner {couples} discovered that when the division of home tasks is honest to each spouses, girls expertise larger relationship satisfaction and fewer battle3. Moms with extra childcare duties upon returning to work reported extra battle. “Males who’ve grown up in conventional gender position properties or who haven’t been requested to tackle historically female duties might discover it laborious to acclimate to those duties,” says psychotherapist and government coach Daryl Appleton, EdD.

Is weaponized incompetence all the time intentional?

Companions might weaponize incompetence to hunt management or consideration, elicit sympathy, or keep away from detrimental penalties. This habits tends to turn into a sample when there’s some form of reward, Dr. Appleton says. Possibly a companion, who says they’re “unhealthy at planning,” will get extra time to loosen up whilst you spend weeks researching flights and lodges on your trip.

Whereas it might appear to be your companion is appearing this manner on objective, weaponized incompetence may be unintentional. “For the common individual, who has little perception and consciousness, most behaviors are unconscious,” Dr. Walsh says. “Solely individuals who might have traits of a darkish triad character (narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism) are usually intentionally sadistic.”

One other characteristic of weaponized incompetence is gaslighting, which entails “making somebody query their actuality,” Dr. Walsh says. As an example, somebody might say to their partner: “I’m not good with infants. Are you positive I can deal with this?” This want for reassurance could also be an try to gaslight the opposite particular person or it could possibly be a character trait of somebody who has issue making selections or being alone, she provides.

How one can inform if somebody is actually unable to carry out a job vs. weaponizing incompetence

Moderately than being trustworthy or direct, an individual might resort to passive-aggressive ways to dump duties onto their companion, Lahiry says. For instance, they might promise to do the laundry and declare they “simply forgot” or overload the dishwasher, so every thing needs to be rewashed. One other instance is declining to assist with budgeting as a result of they’re “not good with numbers.”

Recognizing when somebody is feigning helplessness may be difficult. Dr. Appleton recommends on the lookout for “patterns of habits and whether or not the incompetence appears to conveniently serve the person’s pursuits or objectives.” For instance, if operating errands entails texting you each 5 minutes to ask the place to seek out the shampoo or deodorant aisle, this could possibly be their not-so-subtle approach of telling you that buying is boring, disagreeable, or beneath them.

“A companion who’s genuinely fighting a job will present a honest effort in understanding the problem and bettering to the perfect of their capabilities,” Lahiry explains. They care how their actions have an effect on their companion. In the meantime, somebody who’s weaponizing incompetence is “avoiding duties, feigning a lack of awareness, or conveniently failing to finish duties,” she says.

How one can tackle weaponized incompetence if it’s damaging your relationship

Bailing on chores sometimes or not realizing the right way to do one thing isn’t essentially a giant deal. However, if it occurs constantly, it might probably “breed resentment and create an influence imbalance inside a relationship,” Dr. Appleton says. Over time, this habits can result in a breakdown of belief, “which is a cornerstone of a thriving and wholesome relationship4,” Lahiry says.

Under, you’ll discover 4 suggestions for managing weaponized incompetence when you discover it cropping up in your relationship.

1. Follow open communication

Since your companion might not notice how their habits is affecting you, you could have to deliver it to their consideration. You may share your issues “in a approach that’s based mostly in info not emotion and at a time and place that your companion is healthier capable of obtain it,” Dr. Appleton says.

It’s additionally clever to give attention to the dynamic you’re observing. As an alternative of accusing your companion of shirking their duties, strive saying: “I really feel let down generally once you promise to do sure duties after which say you’re unable to.” Dr. Walsh says. They’re much less more likely to get defensive5 when you reassure them that you’ve got religion in them and wish to perceive their perspective.

2. Set expectations

Dr. Appleton suggests working together with your companion to develop clear expectations for sharing duties. You could uncover sure chores that your companion doesn’t thoughts doing or maybe may benefit from a bit of extra follow.

Other than chores, individuals feign incompetence to keep away from battle. “Paying attention to the place this sample reveals up will assist pinpoint dynamics which can be unhelpful to your relationship,” Lahiry provides. For instance, perhaps your companion wants a cooling off interval throughout an argument or they need a sympathetic ear relatively than recommendation.

3. Enable them to “fail”

In case your companion doesn’t make the mattress or fold the laundry the best way you’re accustomed to, “allow them to do it with out assist otherwise you stepping in,” Dr. Appleton says. She additionally suggests utilizing encouragement and reward once you see enchancment. Many years of analysis present that individuals be taught finest in a supportive setting6.

Dr. Walsh suggests giving your companion duties and directions to see how they do. If the problem issues childcare, she recommends taking an toddler care and CPR class collectively. That approach, you’re each outfitted with the identical data.

4. Search {couples} remedy

It’s unlikely that your companion will change in a single day. Having an out of doors perspective may be helpful for understanding relationship dynamics. Working with a {couples} therapist can assist with resolving underlying points and bettering your relationship together with your companion, Dr. Appleton says.


Nicely+Good articles reference scientific, dependable, latest, strong research to again up the data we share. You may belief us alongside your wellness journey.


  1. De Gennaro, Davide, and Gabriella Piscopo. “Pinkwashing and Mansplaining: Particular person and Organizational Experiences of Gender Inequality at Work Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Tradition and Group, vol. 29, no. 4, 2023, pp. 298-314. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14759551.2023.2176501.

  2. Cerrato, Javier, and Eva Cifre. “Gender Inequality in Family Chores and Work-Household Battle.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 9 1330. 3 Aug. 2018, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01330

  3. Newkirk, Katie et al. “Division of Family and Childcare Labor and Relationship Battle Amongst Low-Revenue New Mother and father.” Intercourse roles vol. 76,5 (2017): 319-333. doi:10.1007/s11199-016-0604-3

  4. Campbell, Lorne, and Sarah Ce Stanton. “Grownup attachment and belief in romantic relationships.” Present opinion in psychology vol. 25 (2019): 148-151. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.08.004

  5. Lannin, Daniel G et al. “Longitudinal impact of defensive denial on relationship instability.” Journal of household psychology : JFP : journal of the Division of Household Psychology of the American Psychological Affiliation (Division 43) vol. 27,6 (2013): 968-77. doi:10.1037/a0034694

  6. Broek, Simon, et al. “What Makes Adults Select to Be taught: Components That Stimulate or Stop Adults from Studying.” Sage Journals, vol. 29, no. 2, doi:10.1177/14779714231169684.


How It Damages a Relationship

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