Marriage Therapist Shares The Number One Complaint That Comes Up For Couples

Mason Joseph Zimmer
marriage therapist puts her chin in her hand and stares into camera
TikTok | @corrinthecounselor

Although many people can recognize when their partners are engaging in weaponized incompetence, one marriage therapist is saying that the division of household labor doesn't have to be quite that one-sided to come up in couple's counseling.

For those who are unaware, weaponized or strategic incompetence describes behavior in which one person in a relationship intentionally does a household chore poorly so their partner won't ask them to do it again.

Through this behavior, they can not only ensure that their partner handles as much of the housework as possible but also create the impression that they would help more if only they were capable of doing so.

And while this is a common problem in marriages, it can often get lost in the shuffle of other issues because as some marriage therapists have found, it's surprisingly common for couples to put off serious discussions of other issues like money or whether they'll want children until after they're married.

Yet not only does housework eventually come up when couples do agree to counseling, but compatibility issues around it can be subtler than we might have expected.

In a TikTok video from late last year, marriage therapist Corrin Voeller shared the one of the most common complaint she hears when couples are hashing out their issues.

marriage therapist discussing the division of household duties
TikTok | @corrinthecounselor

As she discussed, these complaints tend to come from women and she described the behavior their husbands show as being passively responsible for household duties and childcare.

Of course, to understand that complaint we must first break down the difference between active and passive responsibility.

As Voeller described it, someone who shows active responsibility looks around the house for things they could do and taking responsibility for getting them done.

Harvey Keitel introducing himself as Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction
youtube | Paramount Pictures

By contrast, passive responsibility means being available and able to help but waiting for somebody else to tell you what needs to be done.

It's unlike weaponized incompetence in that the work in question gets a genuine effort and generally acceptable performance by the person in question. Nonetheless, it isn't self-started.

Voeller followed up this explanation by asking, "Are you taking passive responsibility or active responsibility for the things that need to get done?"

marriage therapist puts her chin in her hand and stares into camera
TikTok | @corrinthecounselor

Because while many of the women she works with are looking for a partner who is actively responsible for the house and children, they've often found that their husbands' approaches better match the description of passive responsibility.

For many commenters, this video described a phenomenon that they have found frustrating but hadn't thought of through this lens before.

And as Insider reported, it led at least a few users to recognize how they could do better. As one put it, "Wow! I guess I'm passive and my husband is active. I feel bad but I am changing that about myself."

As for those on the other side of this equation, one woman shared how she explained to her husband why his passive responsibility was so frustrating for her. In her words, "If you do things at work how you do them at home, you would’ve been fired already."

That's an interesting way of putting it since institutions in certain professional fields have apparently been working out ways to encourage active responsibility among their employees for years.