12 Signs That Your Partner Is Using Weaponized Incompetence to Control You

In relationships, individuals rely on each other to contribute, support, and create a healthy partnership. However, there are instances where one person intentionally manipulates their perceived incompetence as a tool for control and power.

This deceptive strategy, known as weaponized incompetence, can have detrimental effects on the dynamics and overall well-being of the relationship. By feigning ignorance, helplessness, or lack of skill, these individuals exploit their partner’s goodwill and create imbalances in responsibility, decision-making, and emotional labor.

1. Gaslighting

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Gaslighting is a common tactic where one partner deliberately presents themselves as incompetent or clueless to manipulate the other person’s perception of reality. By feigning ignorance or ineptitude, they create a power dynamic where the other partner feels obligated to take charge and make decisions. This subtle form of manipulation can lead the victim to doubt their own abilities, eroding their confidence and independence within the relationship.

2. Emotional Labor Imbalance

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Weaponized incompetence can manifest as an unequal distribution of emotional labor within a relationship. One partner may conveniently “forget” tasks or feign incompetence, leaving the other person to shoulder the burden of emotional and household responsibilities. This can lead to feelings of frustration, resentment, and exhaustion, as the competent partner is left to manage not only their own responsibilities but also those neglected by the other.

3. Learned Helplessness

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By consistently portraying themselves as incapable, some individuals exploit their partner’s nurturing instincts and cultivate a sense of learned helplessness. They may feign incompetence in various areas, such as household chores or financial management, to avoid taking responsibility. This behavior can create a power imbalance where the competent partner assumes a caretaker role, enabling the incompetent partner to evade accountability and perpetuate their dependency.

4. Selective Memory

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Weaponizing incompetence can involve selectively “forgetting” important discussions, agreements, or promises made within the relationship. By conveniently omitting crucial information, one partner can avoid accountability for their actions or decisions. This can lead to frustration, confusion, and a breakdown of trust, as the competent partner is left grappling with inconsistencies and questioning their own recollection of events.

5. Task Delegation

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In some relationships, weaponized incompetence is employed as a strategy for evading tasks and responsibilities. One partner may consistently claim incompetence or lack of knowledge in specific areas, effectively delegating those tasks entirely to the other person. This can create an imbalance of power and workload, as the competent partner becomes burdened with the majority of responsibilities, while the incompetent partner avoids accountability and maintains a position of dependency.

6. Decision Avoidance

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Weaponized incompetence can manifest as a deliberate avoidance of making decisions within the relationship. One partner may consistently defer to the other, claiming a lack of knowledge or inability to choose, in order to shift the burden of responsibility onto their counterpart. This behavior can leave the competent partner feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by the weight of decision-making, while the incompetent partner maintains a position of passivity and avoids accountability.

7. Financial Helplessness

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Some individuals employ weaponized incompetence when it comes to financial matters within a relationship. They may feign ignorance about budgeting, financial planning, or even basic money management skills, effectively relying on their partner to handle all financial responsibilities. By assuming a helpless stance, they shift the financial burden and decision-making onto the competent partner, allowing them to avoid accountability and maintain control over the relationship dynamics.

8. Intimacy Disengagement

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Weaponized incompetence can be utilized as a means to avoid emotional intimacy in a relationship. One partner may intentionally display incompetence or a lack of understanding when it comes to emotional vulnerability or intimate conversations. By doing so, they create a barrier that shields them from having to open up or address sensitive issues. This behavior can lead to a sense of isolation and frustration for the other partner, who may long for a deeper emotional connection.

9. Manipulative Dependency

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Weaponizing incompetence can involve creating a manipulative dependency on the competent partner. One partner may consistently portray themselves as incapable of handling basic tasks, decision-making, or problem-solving, relying on the other person to step in and provide support. This can create a power dynamic where the competent partner feels responsible for meeting the needs and demands of the incompetent partner, often at the cost of their own well-being.

10. Perpetual Victimhood

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Some individuals employ weaponized incompetence by assuming a perpetual victim role within the relationship. They may consistently present themselves as helpless or victimized, using this as a means to manipulate their partner into providing constant support and validation. By positioning themselves as the perpetual victim, they evade accountability for their actions and perpetuate a cycle of dependency and power imbalance within the relationship.

11. Emotional Manipulation

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Weaponized incompetence can be employed as a form of emotional manipulation in relationships. One partner may pretend to be emotionally inept, using their apparent lack of understanding or empathy to control the dynamics of the relationship. By feigning incompetence, they can manipulate the emotions and reactions of their partner, leading them to doubt their own feelings or question the validity of their concerns.

12. Task Sabotage

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In some cases, weaponized incompetence is used as a means to sabotage tasks or responsibilities within the relationship. One partner may deliberately perform tasks poorly, claim lack of knowledge, or intentionally overlook important details, leading to subpar results. By doing so, they create a reliance on the competent partner to fix or redo the task, ultimately maintaining a sense of control and power within the relationship.

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