What is “weaponized incompetence?” It’s one of many new “pop-psychology” terms making it’s way around the internet. What is it? How is it used? How can you deal with it? That’s what we talk about on today’s episode of Relationship Radio.

Relationship Radio is hosted by CEO of Marriage Helper, Kimberly Beam Holmes, and founder of Marriage Helper, Dr. Joe Beam.

Words change over time and what they mean can also shift. It’s something that can be difficult to understand if you didn’t grow up with certain words or phrases. Sometimes, even if you did grow up with them, they can still take on new meanings that you don’t quite understand. That’s what happened to Marriage Helper’s CEO, Kimberly Beam Holmes recently when she heard the term “weaponized incompetence” for the first time.

At first, she wasn’t quite sure what it meant. Sure, she knew what competence and incompetence were, but what did it mean to “weaponize” them? 

About two weeks ago, Rob, her husband, went to the grocery store. He came back and said, “Hey, I got groceries.” She looks in the pantry, where there are nine boxes of pancake mix and six bottles of syrup. She asked about it, and he told her they were “buy one, get one” at the grocery store. He doesn’t know (because he’s a man), but when things are “buy one, get one”, it means if you buy one, it’s half off. You don’t actually have to buy two the majority of the time. So she made a reel on Instagram because she thought it was both hilarious and ridiculous, saying, “When you send your husband to the grocery store, and this is what comes back.” The video goes viral, and thousands of people comment, saying, “This is weaponized incompetence.” 

She said to herself, “What in the world is weaponized incompetence?” She was confused until she researched it. It’s a new term that’s become popular in pop psychology. It’s kind of like the new narcissism, which means someone acts like they can’t do something well so that you won’t ask them to do it again. As she’s reading about it, she’s thinking, “That’s not actually what happened. I did not send him to the grocery store with a list of things to do and he came back and just intentionally messed it up.” What people are calling weaponized incompetence, which is “I didn’t want to learn how to do it, so I just went ahead and messed it up because I knew then they wouldn’t ask me to do it again,” actually exists? Some people really do this. She had to laugh because this reminded her of her five-year-old son. He’s perfectly capable of doing certain things, but he’ll purposely do them incorrectly or incompletely so that his older sister will come and fix them for him. It’s a tactic that some people use in their relationships too. They don’t want to learn how to do something, so they intentionally mess it up to get out of doing it again in the future.

That’s not what happened when her husband went to the grocery store and came back with nine boxes of pancake mix and six bottles of syrup. She didn’t send him a list and he didn’t purposely mess it up. He just didn’t understand the “buy one, get one” sale and thought he had to buy two of everything. It was an honest mistake, not an act of weaponized incompetence.

This is an example of how words and phrases can take on new meanings, but it’s very important to understand the context and intent behind them. In relationships, it’s especially important to communicate clearly and avoid using negative language that can hurt your partner. That’s where the Marriage Helper workshop comes in.

At our three-day workshop, we teach couples how to communicate effectively, understand each other’s needs, and work through problems together. We don’t allow negative language or verbal attacks because that’s not productive or helpful. Instead, we focus on learning and growing together as a couple.

If you’re struggling with communication in your relationship or if you just want to strengthen your connection with your partner, we highly recommend checking out our workshop. You can find all the information you need on our website, https://marriagehelper.com/couples-workshop/. It’s a transformative experience that can help you and your partner build a stronger, more loving relationship.