Acts of Service Love Language: The Complete Guide

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What is the Acts of Service love language? How do I speak it? What if my partner’s language is Acts of Service, but it’s not mine?

The Acts of Service love language involves the act of one partner doing things for the other person. The concept of the Acts of Service love language was introduced in Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages.

Learn below how to “speak” the Acts of Service love language, even if it’s not your personal love language.

Learning to Speak the Acts of Service Love Language

Acts of service are made without prompting and with the sole intention of pleasing the other. Whether an act of service makes life easier for your partner or simply fulfills a known desire, your partner’s tank will fill with love.

Acts of service may be large or small. 

  • They may include watching the children for a night by yourself or picking up takeout on your way home. 
  • Menial tasks like taking out the garbage, clearing the table after dinner, or feeding the cat can inspire feelings of love as much as changing the oil in your partner’s car or fixing the leaky showerhead. 

The main message of an act of service is forethought and consideration. The thought and action together, when done without resentment, signifies love to your partner. This is the first step to speaking the Acts of Service love language.

Finding The Right Acts of Service

Speaking the Acts of Service love language means performing the right acts for your partner. Not every act will be taken as an act of love. Discovering what your partner’s particular desires are will ensure the maximum benefit of your actions. 

If the actions performed do not match the desired actions, your partner may feel unimpressed or annoyed with the effort spent on the wrong things. In turn, you may feel resentful that your efforts are not appreciated. 

For instance, you may think doing chores or cleaning the house are helpful acts, but if your partner desires help with the children or paying the bills, your hard work may go unnoticed. 

You must understand what makes your partner happy and put effort toward those endeavors. There are a few ways to determine what the right acts of service are for your partner:

Listen to the things your partner complains about.

  • If your partner frequently states how there is a never-ending pile of laundry to be done, relieving them of this burden every now and then will appreciated. 
  • If your partner wishes they had more time to read, look for ways to make more time for them.
    • Taking care of the nightly chores or children could free up their time.
    • Make plans out of the house to give them space to read.

Pay attention to the little things that make your partner happy. Think about what they enjoy doing and how you might support those endeavors.

  • If your partner loves a chilled mug with their beer, the act of making sure there are mugs in the freezer can be an expression of love.
  • If your partner likes pancakes on the weekends, getting up early on Saturdays to make pancakes speaks volumes.

Look at your partner’s life and find ways to unburden them.

  • If the first thing your partner does when they get home from work is unpack the dishwasher, taking on this duty before they get home can express to them your understanding of their daily efforts and your desire to make life easier on them.
  • If your partner gets up early to get breakfast and lunches ready for the children, you can chip in and assume this responsibility at times so they don’t have to.)

Make a list of a few things your partner could do to make you feel loved and have them make the same list. This will help you become more fluent in the Acts of Service love language.

Acts of Service from the Past

Sometimes, you can determine which acts of service are the right acts by thinking about what has changed since your courtship. When you and your partner were in the in-love euphoria, you likely did small things for each other. As the euphoria faded, you likely settled into routines. The need to impress or extend yourself waned. The memory of how good those initial gestures felt informs your current relationship.

  • Perhaps you used to pull out their seat at a table or open doors for them. 
  • Maybe you used to help them with their work or did the dishes then they cooked for you. 
  • If you no longer make a point to do these things, the lack of these gestures may equate to a lack or loss of love. 
  • Rekindling those gestures can show your partner you love them not only through the effort, but through your remembering of what makes them feel cared for.

Expectations created through past experiences may also clue you in to which acts of service are important to your partner. They may have expectations for your role in the relationship based on how their parents behaved.

  • Maybe your partner came from a home where their parents played out traditional roles, but in your home, both parents shared the responsibilities of the home and children. 
  • Your partner may expect the house to always be clean and for dinner to be ready at a certain time. But you may expect them to pick up one of these duties so the load is shared.
  • They may see your lack of compliance in fulfilling your role as a lack of love. You may see their expectation and unwillingness to help as a lack of love.
  • Talking to your partner about these expectations, and yours, can help find the balance. You may be willing to take charge of dinner every night, but you need your partner to chip in around the house. Your partner may see your willingness to compromise as love and feel better about expanding their expectations. 

If your partner speaks the Acts of Service love language, understanding their life, feelings, and expectations can help you determine the best ways to show them love.

Communicating Desires and Avoiding Doormats

Express love to your partner through acts of service is a choice. Your partner has a similar choice if the Acts of Service love language is your language. Love is only expressed if the action comes from a loving place. Love is not exchanged when one of you feels like a doormat. 

Coercion is not love. When you force your partner to act, they may do what you want, but the act will not be voluntary. You may be pleased that the thing is done, but your tank will not fill and your partner’s may drain. 

Similarly, if you criticize your partner for not doing what you want, you create an environment where love cannot exist. Your partner will feel hurt, angry, or resentful. They may decide to act or not, but no love will be created. 

Dealing With Demands

If your partner speaks the Acts of Service love language and often criticizes you or makes demands, you may also feel resentful. However, if you know these acts will translate into love, you can approach them in a positive way.

  • If you can think of their criticism or demands as pleas, you may be able to respond more positively. For instance, if your partner tells you you are lazy around the house, it may be their way of showing you how much a little help would mean to them.

Listen to the things your partner criticizes you about. You might get clues on what sort of acts of service could express love to them. 

  • Listen to the things your partner criticizes you about. You might get clues on what sort of acts of service could express love to them. 
  • If you choose to understand their issues and choose to act based on that knowledge, your partner may begin to see your lack of action as a response to their negativity, rather than a lack of love. 
  • You partner may begin informing of their needs, rather than criticizing you for not knowing, if they trust you want to show them love. 

Whether the tanks fill up depends on you. You are not required to do the things your partner desires. But if you don’t, you are doing so knowing you are not expressing love the way a partner who speaks the Acts of Service love language needs it. 

Acts of Service Love Language: The Complete Guide

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Here's what you'll find in our full The 5 Love Languages summary:

  • How to figure out what your love language is, and what your partner's is
  • Why arguments happen in relationships, and how to stop them
  • How to speak the right love language, even if it's not yours
Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn is a writer and reading specialist. She’s published dozens of articles and book reviews spanning a wide range of topics, including health, relationships, psychology, science, and much more. Amanda was a Fulbright Scholar and has taught in schools in the US and South Africa. Amanda received her Master's Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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