What is Weaponized Incompetence? (& 3 Ways to Stop It)

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Published Date|
April 15, 2023

What is Weaponized Incompetence? (& 3 Ways to Stop It)


You come home after a long day of work, ready to unwind and get into bed – only to find your house in complete disarray.


Your partner agreed to make dinner and clean up afterward, but your kitchen is full of dirty dishes.


When your partner sees your face, they simply say, “I tried to clean up, but you do it so much better than me! I didn’t want to mess anything up!”


This frustrating scenario is an example of weaponized incompetence – and it can be hard to navigate.


Here at KMA Therapy, we know you want to have healthy and successful relationships. For over 14 years, we’ve equipped our clients with the knowledge and tools they need to tackle relationship challenges and create relationships that are supportive, rather than draining.


After reading this article, you’ll know what weaponized incompetence is, how to recognize it, and three ways to overcome it.


What is Weaponized Incompetence?


Weaponized incompetence happens when someone pretends they don’t know how to do something so that someone else will do it for them.


what is weaponized incompetence

They may refrain from doing a task, claiming someone else can do it better, or complete it poorly to avoid being asked to do it again in the future.


How To Recognize Weaponized Incompetence


In a relationship, weaponized incompetence may look like your partner telling you they can’t unload the dishwasher because they never know where to put the dishes, or they always end up breaking something.


Weaponized incompetence has a few tell-tale signs to watch out for in a partner:


Signs of Weaponized Incompetence Include:


  • Avoiding taking part in planning or scheduling activities
  • Claiming to not understand how to complete household tasks
  • Saying “I think you should just do it” or “You’re so much better at this than me”


This can cause you to doubt your ability to trust your partner, leave you feeling frustrated, and put a strain on your relationship.


Is Weaponized Incompetence Done on Purpose?


Weaponized incompetence is not always intentional. There is a wide range of reasons why your partner might struggle to do things independently.

weaponized incompetence can put a strain on your relationship


In the worst-case scenario, weaponized incompetence is malicious and intentional – but it’s usually a lot more complicated than that.

What is the Psychology of Weaponized Incompetence?

When your partner feels like they can't do things correctly or worries that they won't be able to complete things to your standards, these fears can be expressed by shirking responsibilities and avoiding contributing to household tasks.


Your partner might be dealing with:


  • A genuine lack of confidence in doing things correctly
  • The worry they can’t do things without your help
  • The need to feel dependent on you


But no matter what the reason, the behaviours displayed in weaponized incompetence can take a toll on your relationship, and leave you feeling burnt out.

It’s not fair, or sustainable, for one partner to take on the brunt of the responsibilities. 

3 Ways to Stop Weaponized Incompetence

Here are three ways to deal with weaponized incompetence before it escalates into a larger problem.

1. Open Communication


So many relationship challenges are caused by communication issues. Good communication creates safer spaces for you and your partner to discuss sensitive topics.


Express how you’re feeling to your partner, and clearly understand what you want to get out of the conversation. Do you want them to help out more around the house? Do you want them to ask when they need help instead of just assuming they’ll do things wrong?


When having this conversation, remember to:


  • Consider the time and place
  • Take breaks if things get too intense
  • Look for common goals between the two of you


Read 3 Tips to Improve Communication in Your Relationship to learn more.


2. Set Clear and Firm Boundaries


If you’re taking on more than your fair share of work in the relationship due to your partner’s weaponized incompetence, it’s time to set some boundaries.


Delegating tasks and having a discussion together about how they need to be completed can help you make sure the relationship remains balanced.


3. Speak to a Couples Counsellor


Sometimes, an objective outside opinion is exactly what you need to bring harmony to your relationship.


It can be hard to have a clear perspective on what’s going on when the outcome of your conversations directly impacts your daily life.


If you’ve been feeling frustrated with your partner’s actions for a long time, but haven’t been able to have a successful conversation about what next steps to take, speaking to a couples counsellor may be just what you need.


Signs it may be time for couples counselling include:


  • Struggling to get on the same page about what you both need in your relationship
  • Repeating the same arguments again and again
  • Difficulty communicating


Read 10 Signs it May Be Time for Couples Counselling to learn more.


Next Steps for Strengthening Your Relationship


After reading this article, you know how to recognize weaponized incompetence and three ways to manage it.


Here at KMA Therapy, we know you want to thrive in your life and your relationships. For over 14 years, we’ve supported our clients in achieving and maintaining the healthy relationships they deserve.


Book an appointment today or connect with our caring team if you have any questions.


If you’re not yet ready to book an appointment, check out these resources to keep learning:


Author |
Emily Weatherhead
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