Every couple of years, I retake author Gary Chapman?s online assessment of the ?5 Love Languages?.
This time around I was pleasantly surprised to discover that acts of service moved up the list pushing receiving gifts way down below.
Turns out it?s entirely possible to express and receive love differently.
As much as I express love through spoiling loved ones with gifts and affection, when it comes to receiving love it?s a whole different language altogether.
While I always appreciate a thoughtful gift, I feel most loved when someone truly goes out of their way for me.
Whether it be offering a quick ride to the metro station or simply dropping by at the pharmacy to pick up something I need, these small gestures take the burden and stress off my shoulders.
As someone who values actions over words, it makes complete sense that the action-oriented love language of ?acts of service? ranks at the top of my list.
Yet just like other love languages (such as gift-giving), acts of service can get easily misunderstood.
Along with this love language being viewed as a ?labor of love?, here are 3 truths you should know:
The biggest misconception behind this love language is that it?s all about the labor.
Whether it be washing the dishes, mopping the floor, or doing something laborious, acts of service don?t always revolve around household chores.
Or in my best friend?s words, have to feel like you?re ?being a maid?.
As someone who grew up in an Italian household where there was less talking and more doing (surprising, I know), taking initiative on daily chores was expected.
As a result, offering a helping hand on daily tasks wasn?t always acknowledged or verbally appreciated.
Instead, helping out in high priority areas where it was needed most (like preparing supper or spending an entire day cutting tomatoes and filling up jars during harvest season) was valued a lot more and verbally appreciated.
When it comes to this love language, there?s one thing you need to consider: acts of service comes in MANY different forms.
Rather than taking part in every conceivable task that *might* speak your partner?s language, you can get to the root of their ?unspoken need? by asking them:
Would it be helpful to you if I did___?
Not only will you discover what they?ll appreciate the most, but you?ll be able to focus more time on prioritizing that action which will ?spark joy? and less on others that?ll go unnoticed (such as washing or putting away the dishes).
Sometimes it can be as simple as picking up their favorite moisturizer on your way back from work or offering a helping hand on a personal project.
The only way to get the clarity you need is by discovering what areas they value your help in the most.
2. An Act of Service Should Never Be Done out of Guilt or Resentment.
Let?s face it, you can?t cater to your partner?s every whim or request.
As much as you may love them, saying no to them at times only makes you human.
If you find yourself resenting them for fulfilling a need of theirs that doesn?t seem reasonable, goes against your values or makes you feel uncomfortable, it?s OKAY to say no.
Acts of love are valid only if they?re performed without conditions or expectations.?- Mark Manson
After all, expectations are a breeding ground for resentment.
It?s one thing to be there for them when it?s needed most, it?s another to continuously commit to an expectation your partner has that you?re not comfortable with.
While you won?t always be uber excited about helping them paint the bedroom apartment or watch a cheesy action flick with them, the most important thing is that you choose to do it because you want to, not because you?re forced to.
The gestures should come from a place of love, not guilt or resentment.
If you find yourself experiencing the latter (like I did) you need to re-assess whether you can truly meet your loved one?s needs.
I spent 4 years in an (almost long-distance ) relationship with a partner whose primary love language was acts of service.
Surprising him with thoughtful gestures like buying him his favorite new jeans and cleaning up the dishes he?d leave behind wasn?t fully appreciated.
It left me frustrated and confused.
The reason for his lack of enthusiasm was a direct result of me not tuning in to his primary need.
His acts of service stemmed from an area I was uncomfortable with: going the distance.
?An act of service is freely given not out of fear, but of choice?.- Gary Chapman
Since he lived about an hour outside the city and worked evening shifts, I?d only see him on the weekends when he?d come to pick me up every Friday night.
After a while, it took a toll on him and he needed me to go the distance to meet him.
What made him feel most loved was me commuting to him via public transportation to spare him the hourly car ride to pick me up after his work shift.
I did ( a handful of times) until I realized how much I truly hated long commutes via bus, metro and train to meet him in the outskirts (almost 2 hours away).
Getting a car wasn?t feasible either since I worked in the city and was close to a metro.
As much as I loved him, the expectation of having to undergo a ridiculously long commute on a bi-weekly basis (on top of the lengthy work commute I already had) left me bitter with resentment.
Once the gesture turned into an expectation suddenly all meaning was lost behind it.
?Your partner should feel like their demonstrations of love are reciprocated and their choice, at their will ? not your demand.?
After our relationship became rocky (due to other reasons as well) resentment turned to guilt.
I went the distance one last time from fear of losing him.
My gesture of meeting his needs came from an unhealthy place of guilt/resentment, not from love.
?I?ll do anything for love but I won?t do that.?- Meat Loaf
As a result, I couldn?t speak his primary love language and meet him halfway.
As much as we both loved each other, when it came to expressing love, we spoke two different languages.
While I wanted romantic gestures and affection, he wanted long commutes via bus, metro and train.
The biggest takeaway I learned is that expressing love for a partner shouldn?t be difficult.
If you struggle to meet each other?s needs, chances are all the love you feel for them won?t ever be enough because they can?t receive it in the way that resonates with them the most.
When something doesn?t ?feel right?, it?s probably because it isn?t.
3. Acts of Service Recipients Want Your Help but Hate to Ask for It.
Ever wonder why we get annoyed when we?re told what to do?
There?s a reason for that.
Enter: psychological reactance
According to Psychology Today, psychological reactance is our brain?s response to a threat to our freedom.
Something as simple as having your partner ask you what the plans for the evening are can send your brain on full-blown defence mode.
The fear of being ?tied down? to plans, you don?t want to take part in.
The struggle is irrationally real.
Which is why it comes as no surprise that people whose primary love language is acts of service don?t like asking for help because they don?t want to come across as demanding.
Nobody likes to be told what to do, let alone reminded or felt like they?ve been given a list of chores.
People with this love language rather depend on themselves but value the support a partner brings to the table.
Which is why when the needs of an act of service recipient aren?t being met, they resort to complaining (true story).
And there lies the golden nuggets of discovering where the unmet needs are.
As someone who resonates with this love language the most, I?ll admit it?s nice to receive a helping hand when it?s not asked for.
The act of ?doing? without having to be told, speaks volumes.
Yet I know that people aren?t mind readers and won?t always know the specific areas in which I?ll appreciate their gestures the most.
There lies the catch 22: we don?t like asking for help but want you to help.
Which is why having an attentive and perceptive partner who we feel comfortable in verbally communicating our needs with is key.
For acts of service: more communication=less assumptions =less complaints.
Actions play a huge role in this love language.
Walking the talk and following through on things you say you?re going to do is a sure-fire way to be in tune with your partner?s needs.
On the contrary, being ambivalent, unsupportive and lazy will make a partner who speaks this language feel unloved.
Words only hold value if there?s weight behind them.
After all, the greatest gift you can give a partner who?s all about acts of service is offering a helping hand where it?s needed most.