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The Five Love Languages: Acts of Service

The Five Love Languages: Acts of Service

Posted on March 6th, 2017 by Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C

Acts of ServiceThe fourth of the Five Love Languages® is called Acts of Service.  For some people, actions indeed speak louder than words.

Of course, just as with Words of Affirmation you can’t speak nicely while neglecting the other aspects of your relationship and expect to come out on top, so too it should be noted that if you constantly say nasty things to your partner while you do nice things for them you probably won’t get very far either.

Acts of Service are things you do for your partner as opposed to things you say; they are ways to take care of that person’s needs.  You may envision providing a sumptuous breakfast in bed with fresh-squeezed orange juice and brewed coffee, or an extended foot rub with lotion and aromatherapy. (See below for more examples of Acts of Service, as well as this additional post with 101 examples of Acts of Service.)

Certainly these may qualify as Acts of Service (assuming they suit your partner – personally, I hate coffee).  But the reality is that for someone who receives love via Acts of Service, it doesn’t have to be a major production, nor is romance necessarily an indispensable part of the equation.  An Act of Service can be as mundane as washing the dishes, taking out the trash, or mowing the lawn.  That’s right – taking out the trash (and remembering to put a new bag in the trash can!) might be enough to fill up your partner with love.  Go figure!

For Acts people, the fact that you would do something for them communicates love. It can be big or small, prosaic or romantic.  It is simply the fact that you do it that matters.

Are you feeling connected to your partner? E-mail us for help in getting there.

The Challenge

One major obstacle that many couples face with this love language is the influence of gender roles. Women who receive love via Acts of Service often want to see their husband do things around the house for them – vacuuming, mopping, laundry; or, if they have children, there are many childcare tasks that can be done, such as bathing, diapering, feeding, etc.

These are all jobs that, for better or for worse, are traditionally viewed as the woman’s domain.  For men who have grown up in families where the traditional gender roles were strongly adhered to, the idea of taking on “women’s work” might be hard to swallow.  And for women who grew up in such families, asking of men to do them might be equally difficult.

diaperingThe validity and helpfulness of those gender roles are not our topic right now. The point is that for people in this situation, especially men, it is worth considering whether your discomfort with changing diapers is worth prioritizing above making your spouse feel loved.

It helps to view the task not as something that is your duty but rather as something that you choose to do as an act of love, no different than you would see bringing her breakfast in bed.  This perspective applies to everyone, in fact.  Mowing the lawn is not a favorite chore for most people; but if you see it as something you do because you love your spouse, it makes the work feel much different.

Examples of Acts of Service

Here are some more examples of Acts of Service you may not have considered. We’ll start with some of the categories we already mentioned above:

  • mowing the lawnHousework: doing dishes, laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, cooking dinner …
  • Childcare: changing diapers, bathing, feeding, doing homework, driving children to playdates …
  • Home maintenance: checking the air filters, fixing the leaky faucet, yardwork …
  • Errands: grocery shopping, picking up the dry cleaning, buying stamps …
  • Car care: filling the gas tank, taking it for an oil change, washing the car, …

I’d love to hear your other ideas too!  Send me a message, or post them in the comments below.

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5 Replies to “The Five Love Languages: Acts of Service”

  1. My mate is currently in jail, but wants to pour into my love tank. My primary love language is Acts of Service. How can he pour into my primary love language if he’s not around?

    1. Hi Miesha,

      This is a great question. Let’s first be real about the fact that any way you look at it, it’s tough to be in a relationship when one partner is incarcerated. That is a reality you guys will have to deal with as best you can.

      That said, let’s consider how you can create opportunities for him to fill your tank. Obviously this depends on what will be allowed by the facility he is in, but here are some ways you might be able to get some love buzz going:
      -Bring something for him to fix. A laptop? A toaster? A shoe?
      -Have him write letters for you that would take care of a task you need to do – write to the electric company, your lawyer, etc. (You might be able to get that done faster by email, but we’re talking about looking for opportunities we can create here!)
      -Ask him to look up information for you on a topic you need to know about – water safety for the kids? Tax preparation?

      Even without reaching for ideas, small things like pulling out a chair for you or opening a door might help you feel loved and cared for. I hope you will be able to keep that connection going even while you tough out this stage of your lives together!

  2. This article shows me almost exactly why my marriage is falling apart. My husband was stuck in traditional roles & as a person who’s love language is service well, you know the rest. I feel like it’s a shame. A marriage lost because we didn’t figure it out soon enough.

  3. My boyfriend’s love language is Acts of Service. However mine is Receiving Gifts. When he comes around he will put gas in the car, drive us around, put air in my tires, change air filters around the house, and sometimes we will go out for breakfast. I pretty much encourage a healthier groom, I’ll do his nails, rub his back, I cook for him, and whatnot. How do I suggest he tend to my love language to make it more equal? I’ve expressed that I like gifts and flowers (but haven’t received any yet) it’s been 9 months together thus far.

    1. Have you had a discussion with him about the Love Languages? It sounds like he’s motivated to give to you, but may not realize the importance and value of giving in the way that resonates most with you. Maybe helping him understand that his efforts will be more valued if he channels them towards gifts would move things in the right direction?

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