In my work with people exhibiting codependent behaviors, I have come to recognize what I originally called “feigned incompetence” but which I have since found the label is “weaponized incompetence”, with the label originating in 2007 and Tik Tok recently making it much more prominently known. Done deliberately, it can also be labeled strategic incompetence. The recognition of this behavior has grown, putting the focus and responsibility on the offender.
Weaponized incompetence, according to one definition, is when “a partner feigns the inability to do something, even though they have already done similar things in the past”. Mmmm, is it that the partner in incapable, not confident, or merely using a strategically manipulative tactic? It happens, not just in relationships, but even in the work place. I have caught myself saying I can’t do something, when, in fact, if I took the time, and practiced it more, say spending more time with electronics, I might be more capable of doing it.
So what happens in a relationship when one partner is doing more of the work and the other is left to pick up the slack, especially if that partner is working harder doing the tasks (even sharing of duties)? This then can lead to resentment, and without some good conversation, can put the relationship in peril.
Excuses for why someone can’t (or won’t) do something range from not being a good cook, not wanting to chance ruining the clothes by doing the laundry wrong, feeling sick, always making errors, not understanding the correct way it should be done to doing such a bad job last time. If they can do their jobs, at work, they usually are quite capable of doing household chores. If they continue to “mess up”, is this then a deliberate sabotage of the sharing of the duties, in an attempt to be able to acquiesce the responsibility altogether? The answer may come down to intent: is the person intending to get out of doing a job, a chore, helping out or assisting with household duties?
Communication between partners has often been a struggle, as one person says something (intention) and the other person hears something (perception) and they truly may not be aligned. So the first order of business would be to approach open and honest communication, with one partner expressing how he or she feels, using “I” statements (I feel . . .) and asking what the intention of the other is. It might also be good to discuss a division of household duties, when, where, how, with each other, clearly delineating the expectations of both. Following that will need to be the implementation of good boundaries; all too often one person will get frustrated and step in and criticize the job, or finish the job, which can both cause resentment. A boundary of not “rescuing” by doing or completing the job will be necessary.
I haven’t watched the plethora of Tik Tok videos, but my understanding is that millions of people have viewed these. While not all things are an easy fix, the first step will be recognition and awareness, and the second step some open and honest communication. This behavior doesn’t have to be a continuation until resentment builds to a relationship ending, but can be the beginning of addressing the issues in a more healthy and adult manner.
“Okay, okay, I’ll just do it myself and I know it will be done right”.
“Here, give it to me”.
“Um, no.Tags: calculated incompetence, feigned incompetence, rescuing
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
Licensed Professional Counselor
Advanced Clinical HypnoTherapist
- Deb England began working part-time for Wholeness Healing Center in September 2004 and began full-time in May 2005. Deb practices primarily in the Broken Bow office and one day a week in the Grand Island office. Previously she had completed her practicum and internship at Morning Star Alliance, working in the Broken Bow and Grand Island offices.
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