Mums, do you feel like you do everything at home – because no one else can? Read the signs of weaponized incompetence here.
What is weaponized incompetence? The people of TikTok coined the term in the middle of a pandemic when couples had to be stuck at home. It got wives finally noticing the imbalance in shared tasks between them and their husbands.
In the old times, such imbalance wouldn’t bother women, because they weren’t required to work. So, while their husbands brought home the bacon, the wives cooked them.
But, today, women are expected not only to maintain the upkeep of the home but to bust out of the house and work as well. So, if women share the responsibility of bringing home the bacon, husbands should share the responsibility of caring for the home. That’s the ideal scenario. The reality, however, is different.
In this article, we will discuss the ways weaponized incompetence is present at home and how you can resolve it. It’s time to claim equality, ladies, so keep on reading.
What Weaponized Incompetence Is
In a nutshell, weaponized incompetence is what a partner uses to get out of doing a shared task. They pretend to be incapable of performing said tasks. Sometimes, spouses do not pretend and are actually incapable, but they lack the willingness to learn how to do them and to do them without asking.
Here is a very typical scenario:
You wake up before your husband does, make your breakfast, prepare the kids’ lunchboxes, and then wake up your husband. Then, you go and prepare yourself for work.
Since you did the cooking and fixing in the morning, you tell your husband he is in charge of dinner. You go to work, work really hard, and feel excited about the dinner that your husband is going to make. You clock out, come home, and then find some burnt food on the dinner table. Your husband says, “I’m sorry. I did my best.”
You look around. The house is a total mess from the kids’ playing. And, you ask, “you didn’t clean up here?” Your husband says, “Well I was busy cooking dinner.” So, instead of burning more food in your kitchen, you send your husband away and prepare your food yourself.
You ask your husband to get the kids and tell them to fix the toys. He responds with, “they don’t listen to me.” So, instead of stressing over your husband screaming your kids’ names, you go find them yourself and ask them to clean their mess.
Image Source: iStock
If this scenario is all too familiar, what you have in your home is weaponized incompetence. It’s a problem because it can be the cause of so much stress on one partner and might even be the reason for the relationship to fall apart.
So, it’s important to be able to recognise it and provide solutions to turn things around. And how the husband responds to the questions in this scenario is not the only sign. Let’s go through them one by one.
Signs of Weaponized Incompetence
One of the most apparent signs of weaponized incompetence is how your partner responds to a task you give them. You will notice a pattern. Or, they will always say the same things. The phrases you need to watch out for are:
“I don’t know how to do that.”
“You’re much better at doing this/that than me.”
“I’m terrible/bad at this.”
“I’m too busy right now. Can you do it?”
“Remember how bad it was when I did it?”
Any iteration of these phrases is a sign of weaponized incompetence. Especially when said several times after already showing them how to do particular tasks or guiding them how.
What’s the Solution? Be firm and stand your ground. Your partner is never going to learn how to do these tasks properly if you always just let them off the hook.
Did they burn the chicken? Tell them to figure out how to get food. It’s not up to you to think about how to do their shared tasks. The kids are not listening to him? You can either talk to your kids and tell them how important it is for them to listen. Or, you can let him yell. Let him yell until the kids fix their mess.
Gaslighting Whenever They Can
Some spouses who use weaponized incompetence don’t always use the compliment-them-to-the-max route. Instead, they use gaslighting.
If this is the first time you are hearing the term gaslighting, it is just one of the many forms of emotional abuse. A gaslighter is essentially a manipulator who convinces you to think that you are the problem. They will say things like, “you’re being so emotional about this” or “you’re being too selfish” or something as manipulative like “if you love me, you will do this.”
A typical scenario would be like this: you confront him about always pretending to be tired or bad at doing something at home. And, they justify their behaviour, and then you start pointing out how that is unfair. You enter this conversation hoping your partner realises their wrongdoing. When you are married to a gaslighter, you will end the conversation feeling that you were the one who is wrong, when you’re not.
What’s the solution? First, you need to recognise the signs of gaslighting in your relationship. Otherwise, you won’t know that they are manipulating into taking more mental and physical load.
Once you do notice the signs, the first thing you ought to do is to stay calm. Nothing fuels a gaslighter more than you bursting into fits of anger. You want to show them that you are the one taking the high road. So, try to stay calm throughout the conversation.
And, like above, stand your ground. Firmly believe in your version of reality, and express this openly with your partner. If they refuse to see that they are the problem, collect evidence.
Whenever they gaslight you into avoiding a house chore via text, take a screenshot. When you’ve collected enough proof, show them to your partner. You are doing this because your partner might not even be aware that they are gaslighters or are even using weaponized incompetence. Sometimes they need help to see that they are the problem.
Image Source: Stock
Is There a Solution to Weaponized Incompetence?
If weaponized incompetence has been in your marriage for too long, it’s going to be hard for you to recognise it as a problem, because it has become innate in you to do most of the chores.
For instance, you might only notice now that you are taking most of the mental load for your family. Your spouse doesn’t have to think about the grocery list, the utility bills’ dues, the homework of the children, and the events in their school, but you do. You and your partner share your earnings. You should share responsibilities at home and with your kids too.
So, when you feel alone in thinking and doing most of these things, your partner is used to their weaponized incompetence, as are you. If they wanted the share of the load to be fair, they would have noticed and done something about it.
But, the fact that they don’t even recognise, let alone take responsibility for their share is enough to tell you weaponized incompetence is well and alive in your marriage.
Oftentimes, spouses who have subconsciously let you do most of the work are not aware that their share of responsibilities is way less than yours. In their heads, you two are equally sharing the load.
So, you have to lay it out for them. If they bring up the fact that they are always tired from working, you bring up the fact that you work too. Since you share the responsibility of providing for your family, he ought to help out at home too.
Weaponized incompetence can be dangerous not only to the health of your relationship but to your mental health as well. So, it helps to mitigate it by recognising the signs and nipping the problem in the bud. You need to have faith that your spouse is also capable of changing in order to rid your marriage of this problem, as that is what a marriage is all about.
And to avoid this cycle of unfair load between women and men, make a pact to teach your son about household chores so they don’t do this to their spouses in the future.
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