If you are the primary caretaker of your children, you may have at one time felt nervous about leaving your children with your partner. But what happens when those feelings are more than just protective nerves but based on legitimate fears and frustrations?
If that sounds familiar, you are not alone. In fact, over the past few months, there have been thousands of videos posted on TikTok of people (mostly women) sharing their experience with this phenomenon. As of this publication, the hashtag #weoponizedincompetence has over 60 million views.
So what is weaponized incompetence?
Weaponized incompetence (or strategic incompetence) refers to a practice where people pretend they do not know how to do something when they really do. This skill can take years to refine and often is something very, very intentional since it takes a lot of dedication to avoid learning certain skills when there are so many ways to find out how, either by looking up instructions online, calling a friend, or asking someone to help you learn.
One example that comes to mind is when you ask your husband to watch the kids while you run errands or take a shower, and when you come back, you see that the house is a mess, the kids only ate potato chips, and diapers still need to be changed. In some of the videos on TikTok, women explain it as a simple cycle. They ask their husbands to do a task, the husband does the task poorly, often waiting until the last minute, and then makes excuses, leaving the person asking for help frustrated.
Oftentimes, women will find themselves in this position and struggle with being the “bad guy” and worry about being the stereotypical “nag.” But often, women are just looking for “active partnership,” as TikTok’er Laura Danger of @thatdarnchat and a certified Fair Play facilitator describes in this video below.
@thatdarnchat Reply to @phuhcsitup the end is the kicker and is the real answer to why it makes sense. #weaponizedincompetence #divisionoflabor ♬ Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) – Edison Lighthouse
Let’s look at some more real-life examples…
In the below video, I love how mom and TikToker Cindy Noir explains that while weaponized incompetence is very exhausting for the spouse, it is also detrimental for the children to see. She mentions that it models ways for children to try and get out of things they need to do and learn that there is one parent who is more trustworthy.
@ebonie_qt#stitch with @kcrowe86 weaponized incompetence isn’t okay. #IDeserveTuitionContest #ThatCloseMessenger #parent #parenting♬ original sound – Cindy Noir✨
TikToker Artimus Wolz also has a video showing the different ways some husbands use weaponized incompetence to get away with things. While this video is catchy and ironically funny, the comments shed light to the realities so many women have to face. There are thousands of examples of excuses, from “You do it so much better” to “I don’t know where this goes.”
@artimuswolzCan y’all show me how to caption? You’re so much better at it #fyp #gaslighting #comedy #humor #satire #men #toxic #lol #meme #artimuswolz #music♬ IncompeDANCE – Artimus Wolz
But how can we address weaponized incompetence?
1. Open communication
Communication is the answer for so many relationship problems. But having productive conversations is often challenging. First, try to understand why this has been happening. I know many people, especially on TikTok, say that men should not get away with this behavior, but it’s important to realize that some people have legitimate mental or physical disabilities that can make doing what may seem like a basic task difficult. If your partner does not have a disability or other legitimate excuse, have an open conversation about how you feel and how their behavior affects the family, and work through future expectations together.
Now, I know, I know, it may seem silly or even frustrating to even have to point out these issues, but some men grew up in families where the men never had household or child care responsibilities. If you do not discuss expectations, it can be difficult to make changes, so start with a neutral environment and try to be honest with each other.
2. Set boundaries
After having a heart-to-heart, it is essential that you also sit yourself down and figure out what you are comfortable with and what your boundaries are. Are you OK having your husband ask for help? Are you OK helping out with certain tasks and writing lists? Or do you want your husband to do certain things without asking for any assistance? Think through what you expect and set boundaries that you are OK living with.
3. Consider investing in tools
From therapy to apps that help divvy up chores, there are so many different tools available out there to help. Once you and your partner agree on a set of expectations, you can be on the same page and hold each other accountable. Set shared standards for things like what a clean house looks like or discipline strategies so you can be on the same page.
If your partner does not change and you still want to stay in the relationship, consider going to couples counseling and having professional help. Some other ways you can help make changes is by utilizing apps or tools that will help split the mental load and unpaid labor.
Here are three tools that I love and recommend:
S’moresUp is an app that lets families share responsibilities and connects with your Google Calendar. You can split up drop-offs, homework, appointments, and even playdates. Cozi is also a great organizational tool that uses color coding to remind families of appointments and to-do lists. This allows couples to split up domestic responsibilities that are involved in running a home and happy and healthy family. It turns chores and tasks into a gamified system that has only four rules. This game helps couples looking for a way to change with a little more guidance.
The Fair Play Deck
S’moresUp is an app that lets families share responsibilities and connects with your Google Calendar. You can split up drop-offs, homework, appointments, and even playdates.
Cozi is also a great organizational tool that uses color coding to remind families of appointments and to-do lists.
This allows couples to split up domestic responsibilities that are involved in running a home and happy and healthy family. It turns chores and tasks into a gamified system that has only four rules. This game helps couples looking for a way to change with a little more guidance.