10 Signs Of Weaponized Incompetence & 10 Ways To Deal With It

10 Signs Of Weaponized Incompetence & 10 Ways To Deal With It

For decades, weaponized incompetence was a long-running joke in movies and sitcoms. This person can't fold a towel! Har-har! While it may have been funny to watch onscreen, dealing with it in real life is completely different, and it’s often an issue that ends relationships. Here are 10 signs of weaponized incompetence and 10 potential ways to deal with it. 

1. Deliberate Mistakes

A hiccup here or there isn’t the end of the world, but intentional mistakes very much are—and they’re a telltale sign of weaponized incompetence. If you find your partner messes up chores on purpose, they may be trying to weasel out of work. 

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2. Pretending to Forget

Everyone forgets the odd thing on their daily list, it’s not normal when it happens consistently. When writing down chores or constant reminders doesn’t do the trick, your partner may be trying to pull the wool over your eyes. 

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3. Selective Incompetence

Huh, that’s strange. Your partner was fine doing the dishes, but taking out the trash somehow left the garage a mess, and they brought out the recycling bins instead. Selective discrepancies could be a sign of strategic “mistakes.”

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4. Exaggerating Difficulty

Sweeping the back steps isn’t that difficult, yet your partner hums and haws about it. Their schedule is clear but suddenly unloading the dishwasher will take too much time. Little (and persistent) excuses like this could be a sign that they’re just trying to get out of work. 

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5. No Real Effort

Another classic sign is when chores are done badly on purpose. Putting in the bare minimum effort just shows disinterest in doing a good job—even if it means their partner is left to pick up the slack.

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6. Repeat Mistakes

Mistakes happen! Repetitive mistakes despite reminders or tutorials might be a sign of something larger, however. If your partner continuously messes up to the point that you take over…it may have been intentional. 

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7. Backhanded “Compliments”

“You’re so much better at vacuuming” isn’t a compliment, it’s a form of strategic backhandedness. Some household chores are more tedious than others, but plenty can be done without issue, so pretending that someone is “better” at cleaning the toilet is intentional. 

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8. Procrastinating

Some people work better under pressure, it’s true. But if your partner procrastinates to the point that you step in or become stressed, there’s a problem. Delaying also makes it easier for them to claim that they didn’t have enough time to get the job done. 

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9. Reliance on Help

Always needing help for basic tasks could be a sign of something intentional. Occasional assistance is one thing, but constant supervision merely forces others to take over to ensure chores are done correctly.

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10. Feigned Ignorance

Pretending not to know how to perform simple tasks is another telltale tactic. To offload responsibilities, feigned ignorance usually entails overly basic questions or simple mistakes to appear less capable.

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Weaponized incompetence can hurt or even end a relationship—to prevent any resentment down the road, here are some strategies for dealing with it.


1. Call it Out

People won’t change if they aren’t confronted. Calling out this kind of behavior can not only stop it in its tracks, but it informs the other person that you’re well aware of their tactics. From there, you two can work towards improvement.

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2. Don’t Enable Them

Remember that the goal of weaponized incompetence is to have you step in. Don’t enable their behavior by taking over—even if they have to do it a hundred times before it’s right, they’ll never do something on their own if you always swoop in.

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3. Talk About It

This kind of behavior can go beyond the surface. Some partners may have been pampered throughout childhood or hold a legitimate belief that they aren’t good enough to do things. You’ll never know if you don’t talk about it, which is a big part of what a relationship is.

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4. Compromise

You and your partner are a team and that means a little compromise may be in order. We often avoid doing chores we despise, so if that’s the case, work out a system. If someone hates cleaning the garbage disposal, see if there’s another chore you can exchange. The work stays the same but now you’re both more willing to help out. 

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5. Explain Tasks Thoroughly

Some chores genuinely stump people—not everyone grew up with a dishwasher or folded their own laundry, so it may behoove you both to dole out thorough explanations. If the problems persist, at least you’ll know you did all you could.

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6. Speak to a Therapist

Sometimes the best thing you can do as a couple is head to therapy. Given the stakes of weaponized incompetence, it can be worth it to explore this behavior on a deeper level.

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7. Have a Chore List

A good way to nip weaponized incompetence in the bud is to have a set chore list. Keeping tabs on who does what around the house is a good way to monitor what gets done. Lists help you stay organized and really expose when duties are lopsided.

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8. Set Boundaries

Set firm boundaries with your partner to avoid this behavior in the future. Tell them you won’t do their chores or right their wrongs—boundaries inform them of what your comfort levels are and remind them that you’re a partner, not a parent.

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9. Step Back for a Moment

Step back for a moment and assess. Amid our busy schedules, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of just how much our partners actually do. Chore wheels and discussion can put things into perspective because though your partner doesn’t take out the garbage, they may clean out the fridge more often than you realize. 

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10. Know Your Standards

Some partners’ standards differ from yours—they may not mind a little clutter in the living room while you prefer a pristine area. Communicate with them about an agreed level of cleanliness. At the end of the day, it may not be incompetence, it might just be difference of opinion! 

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