Men Are Using Weaponized Incompetence To Make Women’s Lives Harder And I’m Sick Of It

In a perfect world, relationships would be 50/50. While that’s not realistic all the time, it’s not unreasonable to aim for an equal partnership. Sadly, this is getting harder and harder thanks to weaponized incompetence. Even if you’ve never heard the term, you’ve likely experienced this in your own relationships with men.

What is weaponized incompetence?

Simply put, this is when a partner — usually a male in a heterosexual relationship — pretends that he has no idea how to perform certain tasks effectively (via mindbodygreen). They feign ignorance or ineptness so you end up getting frustrated and taking over.

Tasks can include everything from cooking and cleaning to making doctor or dentist appointments. While these things take effort, they are not particularly difficult, especially for adults. However, partners who use weaponized incompetence do so as a way to relinquish responsibility and shift it back to the woman. You end up doing all the work in the relationship because they’re pretending to be incapable of it.

Weaponized incompetence is also known by the term “performed mediocrity,” but they both mean the same thing: the other partner isn’t pulling their weight.

What are the signs this is happening in your relationship?

  1. Your partner claims you’re “so much better” at a very basic task. Whether it’s cooking dinner or folding the laundry, a partner who uses weaponized incompetence is likely to claim that they’d prefer if you performed the task since you’re “so much better” at it. They may even use this excuse even when discussing a chore in which it’s impossible to be “better” or “worse” at performing it. They’re hoping that by handing you this so-called compliment, you’ll let them off the hook.
  2. They only do part of a job or continually “forget” to complete it. If you ask them to set the table, they might regularly “forget” to put the silverware out or get drinks. If it’s their turn to do the dishes and clean up the kitchen, they might “accidentally” leave the counters dirty and uncleaned as they “didn’t realize” it was part of the job.
  3. They put off doing chores because they know you’ll do them eventually. You’ve asked them to please take the trash out, but they keep saying they’ll do it “later.” Of course, later never actually comes. They have no sense of urgency and don’t feel bad about ignoring their responsibilities. They know you’ll pick up their considerable slack, so they can keep doing what they’re doing.
  4. They purposely do something badly so that you never ask them to do it again. It’s easy enough to heat up some leftovers for dinner when you get home from work. However, someone who’s guilty of weaponized incompetence will somehow manage to scorch the pan or break several dishes while performing a very basic task. They’re hoping that by doing such a terrible job, you’ll never be tempted to ask them to do it again.
  5. They often insist they “don’t know how” to do something but refuse to learn. This isn’t just an example of weaponized incompetence, it’s also a form of gaslighting. Even if they really don’t know how to do something, it’s easy enough to learn. Their unwillingness to try is the real problem.

Consequences of weaponized incompetence in a relationship

  1. You feel taken for granted. It’s only natural that you begin to feel unappreciated and taken advantage of when you’re doing everything. You have the same responsibilities in life and the same number of hours in the day. How is it that you’re expected to do everything while they cool their heels? It’s not okay.
  2. You’re emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. Because you’re trying to pull the weight for both of you in your relationship, you end up feeling drained. You have no energy to fight with them about anything because you’re just too tired. It’s an awful feeling, especially since it’s totally avoidable.
  3. You begin to resent your partner. You may be aware of the skewed power dynamic in your relationship but feel powerless to stop it. This builds resentment and even hatred as you know how badly you’re being treated.
  4. The relationship nosedives pretty quickly. Once this trend sets in, you’ll get to a point where you no longer want to be in the relationship. In this case, a breakup may be the best option anyway.
Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill