You need help. It’s hard for you to ask for help but you do it. You are clear about what needs to be done and why. You trust your spouse. So, you hand the task off.
Later, you check on the progress and feel dismayed and disappointed to realize that they left a disaster.
This is so frustrating. You trusted them to make your life better, not make everything worse. This is why you:
Why did this happen? The experts tell you to ask for help. They tell you that those who care about you will genuinely want to help you.They instruct you to be clear about what you need.You did all that but it still didn’t work out. Before you conclude that there is something wrong with you, take a closer look at what happened.
Is this a case of Weaponized Incompetence?
Weaponized Incompetence is when a spouse (or other helper) screws up a task so you won't ask them to do it again. They put in minimal effort or act helpless so you will regret giving them the responsibility. This is different from the times when you have different standards for a task (which is a different problem). Weaponized Incompetence can be a conscious choice or driven by unconscious motives.
Why is Weaponized Incompetence a problem? In any relationship that depends on partnership, Weaponized Incompetence can ruin the relationship. When it happens, it puts more of the mental load on one partner who is expected to pick up the slack. Even tracking small details or thinking through another person’s contribution can be a heavy weight. When it is intentional, it is manipulative to shirk some of the shared work. It changes the way you think about your partner. When you think of them as incompetent, you lose confidence in them. That usually leads to treating them like a child, which is never good for a relationship.
The worst part for you is that the task now requires more work for you than if you had just done it yourself to begin with.
Why would someone who loves you make your life harder?
So, how do you get help without putting yourself at the mercy of someone else’s issues? You really do need help. Even more, you need to have a true partner.
Tips to Combat Weaponized Incompetence:
In my house, doing a terrible job is a sign that they need more practice to learn how to do it well. It’s not a reason to be excused from the task. As long as there isn’t a safety concern, this is a good standard rule that helps everyone understand that their contribution matters.
Next time you walk in to discover a mess, don’t just take care of it yourself. Take a deep breath and take a deeper look. You can shift this trend.
Need help? Learn how Couples Coaching can transform your relationship from frustrated and agitated to a close and connected partnership
Cheri Timko is the creator of Synergy Coaching, an online community helping committed couples have great relationships. Learn more about how to get involved in this movement of couples who don't just want to stay together but want to thrive together here.