Weaponized incompetence, also known as strategic incompetence, is pretending to be incapable or inadequate at a task so that someone else will do it for you. However good it may make you feel in the moment to avoid something you don’t want to do; it will cause long-term damage to your marriage.
This is a hot topic right now and is linked to the imbalance of workload in many marriages. I’ve been talking recently about the increased mental or emotional load women often carry. Weaponized incompetence is another aspect of this imbalance.
I was thinking about this during a conversation I had with my client Mark. Like many people, he now works from home. His wife has a job outside of the house. They recently had an argument about him doing laundry during the workday. He is willing to do that but, no matter how he does the laundry, it’s never to her satisfaction.
This is not weaponized incompetence. It’s a difference in expectations.
It is just one more way that “popular” topics are being applied incorrectly in marriages. Some other examples are the terms “narcissist” and “abusive”. It’s not that these behaviors don’t exist. It’s just that they are used indiscriminately. And usually against men.
Not doing something your partner’s way is not the same thing as claiming to be incompetent or incapable. But it can lead to that. If you always get criticized for how you do something it isn’t a surprise that you stop doing it.
Then it becomes “weaponized incompetence”. Instead of de-escalating the situation, you make it worse.
The better plan is to find a way to talk about what tasks you’re being asked to take on. In a calm way. Outside of the moment. When the two of you agree on the task—what it is, what the standard of “done” is, and the time frame in which it needs to be done—then you can move forward with confidence. And calm.
A good partner is a helpmate. If you don’t know how to do something, you are willing to learn. Again, not necessarily the way your wife wants, unless that works for you.
Leaving it all to her, even if she has really high standards, is a bad move. As resentful as she might be over how you do things, pretending you don’t know how to do them will make things worse. It will buy you temporary peace but will eat at your relationship.
This imbalance will make any kind of intimacy more challenging. If she is hurt, resentful, and angry, she won’t be open to being physical with you. And if she is spending all her time carrying the mental and emotional load, she won’t have time.
So, it’s in your interest not to feign incompetence.
Previously Published on The Hero Husband Project