How Weaponised Incompetence Erodes Relationships and Equality

Discover how weaponised incompetence undermines relationships, perpetuates inequality, and learn strategies to address and overcome it.

Weaponised incompetence is a term that has been gaining traction in discussions about relationships, labor distribution, and social dynamics. At its core, weaponised incompetence describes a behaviour where an individual pretends to be bad at a task to avoid doing it. This tactic can perpetuate gender inequality, exacerbate emotional labor imbalances, and even inflict trauma on partners who bear the brunt of such behaviours.

Understanding Weaponised Incompetence

Weaponised incompetence often plays out in heterosexual relationships, where traditional gender roles assign domestic tasks to women. Men might feign incompetence in household chores, child-rearing, or emotional labor, forcing their female partners to pick up the slack. This perpetuates gender inequality and reinforces the notion that women are naturally better suited for unpaid, undervalued labor.

The impacts of weaponised incompetence can vary based on race, class, and other identity factors. For instance, a woman of colour might face compounded burdens due to societal expectations and stereotypes about her strength and resilience. Additionally, LGBTQ+ relationships are not immune to these dynamics, and weaponised incompetence can manifest in diverse ways across different relationship structures.

For those with trauma backgrounds, weaponised incompetence can be particularly damaging. It can trigger feelings of helplessness, frustration, and being unvalued, especially for individuals who have experienced neglect or emotional abuse in the past. Recognising the trauma implications is crucial for both the perpetrator and the victim in addressing and healing from these behaviours.

Relatable Experiences

Consider Jane, a working mother who finds herself juggling a full-time job, household chores, and childcare. Her partner, John, consistently claims he "just isn't good" at tasks like laundry or organising their children's schedules. Over time, Jane becomes exhausted and resentful, realising that John's incompetence might be less about his actual ability and more about avoiding responsibility.

Or take Alex and Taylor, a non-binary couple where Alex handles most emotional labor, from remembering family birthdays to planning vacations. Taylor often forgets these tasks, saying they are "too overwhelmed" despite having fewer daily responsibilities than Alex. This dynamic leaves Alex feeling undervalued and overburdened.

Identifying Weaponised Incompetence

For those suspecting they might be experiencing weaponised incompetence, here’s a checklist to consider:

  1. Repeated Patterns: Does your partner consistently fail at tasks that you then have to complete?
  2. Skill vs. Will: Is there a noticeable difference between their competence in professional settings versus at home?
  3. Excuses: Are excuses like “I’m just not good at this” or “You’re better at it” common when tasks are discussed?
  4. Resentment and Burnout: Do you feel resentment, burnout, or frustration due to the unequal distribution of responsibilities?

Self-Reflection for Perpetrators

If you think you might be engaging in weaponised incompetence, ask yourself:

  1. Avoidance Tactics: Do I avoid certain tasks by claiming incompetence?
  2. Learning Willingness: Am I willing to learn and improve in areas where my partner currently does more?
  3. Empathy Check: How do my actions impact my partner’s emotional and physical well-being?
  4. Equality Commitment: Am I committed to sharing responsibilities equally and respecting my partner’s efforts?

Steps to Change

  1. Acknowledge and Apologise: Recognise your behaviour and sincerely apologise to your partner.
  2. Learn and Share: Take proactive steps to learn the tasks you’ve been avoiding. Share the load equitably. (FYI learning is *your* responsibility, Google is free, and asking your partner to 'teach' or 'show' or 'tell' or 'write a list' is still engaging in this problematic behaviour)
  3. Communicate Openly: Have honest conversations about responsibilities and listen to your partner’s needs.
  4. Seek Professional Help: Consider counselling to address underlying issues and improve relationship dynamics.

If you recognise these dynamics in your relationship and want to foster healthier, more equitable interactions, consider my counselling service. I offer specialised support to address these issues through feminist, intersectional, and trauma-informed approaches.

Crystal Hardstaff, The Gentle Counsellor, provides a safe haven for healing and understanding. With expertise in Trauma, Attachment Theory, Perinatal Mental Health, and Parenting Support, Crystal offers individual and couple counselling sessions, guiding you through a journey of healing and growth.

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