Understanding "Acts of Service" as a Love Language
The concept of love languages is a relationship theory that explores how people prefer to give and receive love. The theory goes that not everyone shows love to a partner, family member or friends by saying “I love you” and that there are actually many different ways to demonstrate your love for another person in addition to saying it verbally. The theory classifies different acts of love into five different love languages: words of affirmations, quality time, acts of service, physical touch and giving/receiving gifts.
Love Languages in Relationships
According to the theory, each person has a primary “language” they prefer for either giving and/or receiving love. The ways people give and receive love is not necessarily the same, and more often than not is actually quite different. For example, someone might really like demonstrating their love to a partner through physical touch in the form of hand holding, snuggling, etc., but they might prefer to hear words of affirmation like “I love you” or “I am proud of you” from their partner.
While some love languages are easily understood, others require a little bit more explanation. Many people put a lot of emphasis on words of affirmation because of the cultural importance of telling someone that you love them for the first time (think of the plot of any rom com ever), and because saying the words “I love you” is often what comes to mind when we think of love. But true love is often about more than grand gestures and speaking the words “I love you” to another person. Love is often about showing up for people and being reliable and consistent, which is what acts of service are all about.
Acts of service is one of the more overlooked love languages (especially to people that do not know about the concept of love languages), despite the fact that it is a relatively common way that people prefer to express and receive love. People often overlook acts of service as a love language because it is one of the less flashy gestures and not overtly romantic. Acts of service are also sometimes expected of partners, parents and friends (as an example you may expect your partner to help you with a certain household task), but that doesn’t mean that it is not a testament to your love for someone. It is important to understand acts of service as a love language so that you can recognize when someone is showing you love through service and so that you can show your partner, family member or friend love through service.
Though love languages can be used to describe love in familial, platonic and romantic relationships, we are going to focus here on the love languages between romantic partners.
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Giving and Receiving "Acts of Service"
So, what do acts of service mean in a relationship? Acts of service as a love language means that your partner will demonstrate love by doing things to help you out. This may look like making dinner for you, doing a chore that you hate or helping you out with a household project. They will often do these acts of service quietly without expecting any recognition or thanks. When partners show love through acts of service they are showing you that they understand your needs and that they want to help you. If your partner prefers to receive love through acts of service, then show them your affection by doing a chore they hate, filling their car with gas, cooking their favorite meal or making them a cup of coffee in the morning.
Remember that acts of service don’t need to be big grand gestures (though those can be special every once in a while), instead focus on how you can improve their day or lighten their load in small ways. Even if your partner is an independent person, they will want support every once in a while. If you aren’t sure how to show them love or support through acts of service, it’s always a good idea to ask how you can be helpful to them. If YOU have acts of service as a love language, it is important to communicate to your partner how they can help you out. Asking for help or asking for a favor will clue them into your needs and will allow them to show up for you.
In most cases, you and your partner will have different ways that you prefer to give and receive love, but the great thing about love languages is that once you understand how they work, you can see how interconnected they are. If your partner prefers to receive love through acts of service while you prefer quality time, think of ways that you can spend time together while helping your partner out. You could try to tackle a big project together that has been on their list for a while, or offer to drive them as they do their errands. If your love language is acts of service while your partner prefers to receive love through gifts, consider how you can ‘gift’ things in a way that services your partner. Pick up their favorite coffee in the morning before they have a big meeting. Buy them a tie they need for their upcoming interview, etc. There are plenty of ways that you can get creative and communicate your love to your partner through a combination of love languages.
It’s also important to note that while most people have one primary love language, many people have multiple love languages that work for them. At the end of the day, supporting your partner, and showing them that you love them is all about communication. Ask your partner what you can do to make them feel supported, listened to, seen and celebrated in the relationship. Your partner’s answer will likely be a mix of the love languages which can give you ideas for how to better support them in the future.
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