***This is the fifth post in a series of 6 about the Five Love Languages in marriage. I suggest reading them in order. Part 1, 2, 3, 4
A common way of showing you care about someone is by serving them. When we hear about a friend who just had a baby, we often run to the rescue by bringing dinner, offering to do the laundry, or making a run to the store. This is not only important in friendship but can be critical in our marriage if our spouse speaks the love language Acts of Service.
Stereotypes are a big part of this love language. Most women have experience in this area of serving their spouse because our society still has a tendency to follow these stereotypes. Maybe your husband expects you to take care of all the housework and the children because that’s what his mother did and he feels like it is your womanly duty. Or maybe it truly makes him feel loved when he comes home to a clean house and dinner on the table.
It is important to note, if this is your husband’s love language, your attitude about performing such tasks will make a huge difference on the way these acts of service will be received. Nobody wants to feel like a doormat and serve their spouse out of fear or pure obligation. Likewise, nobody wants to receive service when the giver is doing it begrudgingly. If we do it out of love, we keep our own dignity intact while filling our spouse’s love tank. Remember, love does not make demands, only requests.
What are the different dialects?
Here a few ideas of what may be different dialects for the love language Acts of Service.
Service can come in many forms but a common one is household chores. That means doing the dishes and the laundry, cleaning the bathrooms and the floors, making the beds and dusting the furniture. It comes in the form of preparing meals, bathing and caring for the children, running errands, yard work, and taking care of pets. In effect, anything that needs to be done around the house could be considered a chore. If you can make it a priority to help your spouse with some of that, it will show him you care.
2. Caring for
What about when your husband is sick? I’m willing to bet we are all too familiar with how grown, burly men magically turn into little children when they are sick. Although it may irk you to take care of your husband and meet his requests (not demands mind you) when he is obviously exaggerating how sick he is, it may well be the difference between an empty and a full love tank. If his love language is acts of service, he will be even more appreciative of your waiting on him when he is sick or having a rough day.
3. Help with the To Do List
Does your spouse ask you for favors or help with certain things? Maybe it’s to make him a doctors appointment or order him something online. Maybe he could use your help studying or being his soundboard for his big work project. We all know how it feels to be overwhelmed and part of marriage is being able to rely on your spouse for support. If this is his love language, you will see how much it means to him that you’re willing to help him out.
How do I know if this is my or my spouse’s love language?
Dr. Chapman offers a few different ways to check if this is either your or your spouse’s love language.
1. Do either of you express love in this love language? Does your spouse sometimes help you with the chores around the house or taking care of the kids? Do you make it a priority to keep your house clean in an attempt to please your spouse? Does he ever volunteer to make dinner when you’ve had a rough day?
2. What are your complaints like? Does he seem extremely disappointed when he comes home and you’re watching TV while the house is a wreck? Do you tell him you’re tired of doing everything and hate that he never offers to help? Is it common for your husband to tell you he feels like you don’t care about him because you never have time to help him?
3. What kinds of requests do you make? Does he ask for favors a lot of the time? Do you ask for his help when you’re in the midst of cleaning up and it’s bath time for the kids? Does it seem extremely important to him to come home to a clean house?
How can I express it?
So let’s say you have discovered that your spouse’s love language might be Acts of Service. How do you speak it then?
Here are a few ideas:
• Make it a priority to keep your house clean and dinner on the table. Don’t let this make you feel degraded. Instead, imagine that with each dish you wash, you’re depositing drops of love in your husband’s love tank.
• If he seems to be having a rough day, offer to do more than the norm to serve him. Bring him a cup of hot cocoa or offer to put in his favorite movie. He will feel pampered and blessed to be your husband.
• Try asking him if there’s anything he needs help with today? If there is anything you can do to lighten his load?
So what if you feel like your spouse isn’t really responding to your acts of service? The most likely answer is that it isn’t his primary love language. If this is the case, check out the previous posts on the 5 love languages and stay tuned for the last one next week.
If you’re sure it is his primary love language but he still isn’t responding, there may be more going on. If you have struggled in your marriage for a while, it is possible he is interpreting your service as manipulation. He may believe the marriage is over and it’s too late. Either of these options doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage. Stay consistent in expressing love in the language that means the most to him, without expectation of receiving anything in return. Do this for an extended period of time, Dr. Chapman suggests at least six months. It is hard to maintain a cold heart when a person is loving you, in the way you understand and appreciate, without conditions.
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not Acts of Service is your husband’s primary love language, try an experiment. For an entire week (or more if needed), try some of the above mentioned ideas for ways to express love to your spouse through service. Do at least one every single day. Do it with the desire to make him feel your love, without expecting anything in return. Make a note on your phone to write down your observations. If there is a drastic shift in his attitude, you’ve probably found a winner. If not, check out the other posts in this series and stay tuned for the last one next week to see if there is one better fitted to your spouse.
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Is Acts of Service your love language? Or your spouse’s? I want to hear about it! How do you feel loved? How do you express love through service?