The 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.)
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.
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.
The 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:
- Housework: 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.