Jane feared her doctor’s appointment for fear of being persuaded, fired, and physically ashamed. Sensing how anxious she was, her partner volunteered for work and went with her for support, listening, and speaking up when Jane was having trouble being heard.
Jane’s fear melted and she felt new, warm fuzziness in relation to her partner. She felt really well taken care of. What Jane’s partner did – using her time and energy to do something Jane needed, even when she didn’t ask – is known as an act of service.
Acts of Service is one of five love languages identified by marriage counselor Gary Chapman in his 1
Service in a relationship is when one partner does something for or on behalf of the other – usually household chores and adult chores such as washing clothes, paying bills, ordering take-away, changing the water filter, shopping for groceries, making appointments, etc.
Service acts can be a person’s primary love language (they must perform or receive service acts to express love and feel loved); or it could be a secondary love language that supports feelings of love generated by their primary love language.
A person can show love by performing service acts and must also feel loved by his partner by receiving service acts. Here are some examples of giving and receiving.
Giving and receiving service in a relationship requires communication and intentionality.
You and your partner can make two lists – things you need help with and things your partner would like to help you with. This ensures that as you serve one another you know that you are doing the deeds that the two of you will cherish most.
One catch with this love language is that it must be done with a positive attitude in order to be received as an expression of love. Grumbling or pulling your feet has the opposite effect.
When service acts are a person’s love language, not only do their partner’s little chores add up to making them feel cared for, but they also make them feel less stressed.
Stress hormones make way for feel-good hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin. A person who does not consistently meet their service needs may feel lonely, unloved, stressed out, and burned out.
How can you tell whether official acts are one of your most important languages of love? Notice how you feel when someone spontaneously completes a task or helps with a project. Do you feel “seen”, appreciated, loved?
Do you feel the urge to take over your partner’s to-do list when they’re overwhelmed? If so, acts of service can be your love language.
Notice when other things make you feel more loving, such as cuddling, spending time together, or receiving gifts. This could be a sign that you are speaking a different love language. You can take a quiz to find out your best love languages.
If your partner is expressing love for service but you speak a different language, it can be easy to miss each other. Here are three tips for experiencing multilingual love:
- Communicate. Be open to your love languages and be specific to your needs.
- To adjust. If your partner has a different love language than you, adjust to learn it and really practice it. Likewise, you can adapt to accept your partner’s love language when he shows it.
- Estimate. Notice when your partner is doing an act of service or other shows of love. Let them know you see the effort and are grateful.
If you or your partner needs or uses services to feel and show love, you can work together to make sure it helps both of you. Discuss the acts of service each of you enjoy performing and receiving, and use this information to build love and closeness in your relationship.
Anna Lee Beyer writes on mental health, parenting and books. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.