7 Tips For Showing You Care If Your Partner's Love Language Is Acts Of Service
While the language of love may, in fact, be universal, it turns out we all speak slightly different dialects. At least, that’s how Dr. Gary Chapman, who wrote the bestselling book The 5 Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, sees it. In the book, Dr. Chapman outlines five different ways that people express and receive love: touch, offering words of affirmation, spending quality time together, receiving gifts, and acts of service. You can figure out your love language via a test on Dr. Chapman’s website and if you have a partner, you can encourage them to do one, too.
“It's important to respect differences in how we all give and receive love,” couples counselor Dr. Wyatt Fisher tells Bustle. “Most of us tend to love others the same way we want to be loved but this doesn't work when you have different love languages. Therefore, increasing your awareness and respect of diversity of love languages is an important first step.”
The first time I took the love languages quiz, I got almost even scores for all but receiving gifts, which I got a zero on. However, I’ve taken it a couple more times since then and it seems my love languages have shifted a little. Now my results, in descending order, are: quality time, words of affirmation, touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. My partner’s, on the other hand, are: acts of service, quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, and receiving gifts. And while my scores are still pretty close to each other (basically I just want all the love all the time), his score for acts of service is way higher than the rest.
Notice how his primary love language is pretty far down the list of my love languages? When we were first dating, that mismatch made things difficult. We both felt under-appreciated and, at times, blocked in our attempts to express love to each other. We each individually knew how much we cared about the other couldn’t understand why the other person didn’t get it. Explicitly stating our love languages and working to consciously follow each other’s love languages made a huge difference and, today, it feels pretty seamless.
But you don’t just learn about your partner’s love language once and stop there. If a long-term relationship is going to persist, you have to be continuously learning about your partner. No one likes being taken for granted and being taken for granted happens when we stop learning and caring about each other. So with that in mind, here are the most important things to know if you’re dating someone whose love language is acts of service.
1. Start By Asking What Acts Of Service Means To Them
“It's critical to ask your partner what they mean by acts of service because they may define it differently than you,” Dr. Fisher says. “For example, when you hear "acts of service" you may think of cleaning the dishes for them. However, when you ask them they may say it really applies when you take over the children so they can have a break. Therefore, starting with their definition of acts of service is critical.”
2. Talk About The Best Ways To Convey Acts Of Service
One point of contention for my partner and I early on was that he was doing things for me that I didn’t even know he was doing. So while he was expressing his love for me by being helpful, I wasn’t being appreciative of it — because I didn’t know! We had a few discussions about how I need things spelled out really explicitly in order to truly get them and, since then, it hasn’t been an issue.
3. The Little Things Matter — A Lot
For someone whose love language is acts of service, even little things like making the bed or tidying up the kitchen when they don’t have to time to do it can make a big difference. Remember, this is the “actions speak louder than words” love language, so every little bit counts.
“If you’re with a partner who has the acts of service love language, the key thing to remember is to place an emphasis on showing your love, rather than telling them you love them,” Demetrius Figueroa, founder of the dating blog and podcast A Mighty Love, tells Bustle. “We all like to hear that our partner loves us, but if your partner speaks the act of service love language, actions will speak louder than words.”
4. Showing Love Can Be More Meaningful Than “I Love You”
“As someone who personally speaks the acts of service love language, I can tell you that small acts can be more meaningful than hearing ‘I love you,’” Figueroa says. “It’s not that we don’t want to hear words of affirmation, it’s just that we’re more receptive to actions. Hearing I love you is great, spending quality time with your partner is great, but them showing you that they love you can feel more meaningful if you speak the acts of service love language.”
5. You Don’t Have To Become Their Servant
For feminist women and femmes, it can sometimes feel a little “ick” to perform acts of service, because it can all to easily fall into expected gender roles. However, if both you and your partner understand that your actions are about expressing love — not fitting into some preconceived notions of what you “should” be doing, based on your gender or gender expression — it’s a whole other feeling. Also, it’s important to remember that “acts of service” doesn’t equal “servant.”
“Having a partner who speaks the acts of service love language doesn’t mean that you’ll need to cater to their every whim, you just need to show them that you love them primarily through actions,” Figueroa says. “It can be as simple as cooking your partner a meal or getting them tickets to see a film that they mentioned that they wanted to see. You don’t need to move heaven and earth for a partner who has the acts of service love language, just put effort into your actions.”
6. Ask For Feedback
Dr. Fisher recommends asking for feedback periodically to see if you’re fulfilling your partner’s love language the way that they prefer. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, remember to check in and make sure you’re on the same page.
7. Remember — No One Speaks Just One Love Language
Just because your partner’s primary love language is acts of service, doesn’t mean they don’t also speak other love languages.
“Love languages aren’t an exact science, so it’s entirely possible that you or your partner speak one love language as a primary love language, but still place a certain amount of significance on another language as well — or all of them,” Figueroa says. “Love languages aren’t an all-or-nothing thing, just a good way to figure out what your partner responds best to.”