With the Acts of Service Love Language, individuals tend to feel loved when you do things for them that you know they would like. Acts of service may be doing chores around the house, helping your partner study for a test or prepare for a presentation, or even cooking dinner for your partner and making sure to eat dinner together. Actions like this have a large very impact on making your partner feel loved when their love language is acts of service. As with all the love languages, acts of service do not have to be huge--like redoing the roof of the house. They can be small actions such as opening the door for you partner, helping clean up after dinner, or making the bed everyday. In fact, frequency of small acts of service could make a bigger impact on your partner than the large household projects. If this is your partner's love language, try to find small things to do for them often. (Wondering about the difference between primary and secondary love languages?? Click here to learn more.)
The key is to do the things that are most important to your partner. So how to you determine what is most important? Try listening to the things they ask you to do the most, or the things they get critical about the most. Criticism in relationships is often related to deep emotional needs; your partner is often pleading for you to love them when they get critical. Instead of shutting down and getting defensive, it will be helpful for you to ask them “this is clearly important to you, help me understand why this is so important to you”. Over time, this will likely help your partner feel heard and understood, and then they will likely become less critical and make requests instead of demands.
If your love language is acts of service, then you may sometimes feel really frustrated and unloved when your partner does not do the things you ask them for. It is important to remember that love is a choice and can’t be forced. Sure, if you ask over and over again, you partner may eventually give in and do what you want. However, it won’t be out of love and may cause you both to feel further disconnected. No matter how much you ask, you cannot create your partner’s willingness to show you love in the way you desire it. They may still love you but be showing it in different ways--and I fully recognize that it may feel very empty for you if that is happening. In the end, all anyone can ever do is be grateful and appreciate when a partner chooses to show you love.
If you are a partner of someone whose love language is acts of service, then you will also want to remember that you have a choice daily as to whether or not to love your significant other. You can choose to do this in any way you like, but you will get the most bang for your buck by meeting your partners requests as this will be more effective at making them feel emotionally loved.
Tips for Speaking the "Acts of Service" Love Language
Deployed or Long Distance:
Things to Avoid with the Acts of Service Love Language
Since actions are so important for the person whose love language is acts of service, ignoring their requests will have a negative impact of causing them to feel emotionally deprived of love. You’ll want to avoid:
We all need love relationships to thrive in life. Part of having love relationships is knowing how to show love to others in a way that they will receive. For someone whose love language is acts of service, then responding to their requests show them you care and helps your partner’s love tank feel full. When the emotional love tank is full, your partner will know they are important to you.
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Elizabeth Polinsky, MSW, LCSW, is a marriage and couple therapist specializing in working with military members, veterans, and their families. Liz is located in Norfolk, Virginia, and provides online counseling services throughout Virginia, South Carolina, and Arkansas. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Virginia (#0904011022), South Carolina (#11302), and Arkansas (#7735-C). She is also licensed as a Resident in Marriage and Family Therapy in Virginia (#0730000567) under the supervision of Dr. Victoria Holroyd at The Relationship Center at East Beach.
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Hey, I'm Elizabeth Polinsky and I am a marriage therapist in the Hampton Roads area. In Communicate & Connect, I provide educational tips for relationships, with special application to military relationships.