I have a friend whose love language used to be physical touch. And then she had three kids.
One day, she threatened her husband within an inch of his life if he tried to show love by grabbing her hand or pulling her into a hug.
Now, he shows her he loves her by cleaning up the kitchen or vacuuming the living room.
And she feels loved, and their marriage is thriving.
Acts of service is alive and well, serving marriages and relationships of all kinds. You might be thinking that you don’t speak acts of service, or anyone you know…but you might be wrong.
- Wives show love by ironing perfect creases into their husband’s shirts joyfully
- Husbands show love by going to the grocery store and unloading and putting away all the groceries
- Friends show love by creating the perfect birthday party complete with their loved one’s favorite foods — made from scratch, of course
- Dads show sons love by offering to come help build retaining walls and do other projects around the house
- Moms show daughters love by showing up when you’ve had a hard week to clean up around the house, fix meals and drive kids to school
Anything sound familiar and starting to ring some bells?
Acts of service is a hands-on, tangible way to show how much you love someone. And I haven’t read this or done any scientific documentation on this theory, but in my personal experience, those that speak acts of service have a harder time verbalizing their feelings. So when they’re not sure what to say, they at least know what to do — and when they do, they do better than anyone else, hands down.
How can you know if the country you’re traveling to is acts of service? Here are a few ways to tell:
- They hint about tasks being completed. Your wife might mention, again, how the grass is overgrown. Or your husband might mention the dust collecting in the bedroom or under the bed. These hints might come in the form of a joke, or even a downright nag. Pay attention.
- Their face lights up when you say, “can I do that for you?” This is easy to overlook, because you might be spending the whole time mentally thinking, “please say no…please say no.” But if you think your loved one speaks acts of service, keep your eyes and ears open on purpose when you ask if you can do something for them. Their non-verbal reaction might tell you everything you need to know.
- They do little things that aren’t “theirs” to do. Your wife might consistently do “your” chores — maybe taking out the garbage, or changing the oil in the car (do people do that on their own anymore?). When your friend comes over, she might roll up her sleeves and just show up in the kitchen and start cleaning while you’re finishing getting dinner ready, or insist she doesn’t leave your house without helping clean up. Your husband might just walk into the laundry room and start folding laundry or getting another load going.
Acts of service is all about selflessness. Here are some easy ways to speak acts of service to your loved one:
- Seek opportunities. Start small and do the unexpected random act of service. Grab your mans briefcase and coat when he gets in the door and put them away for him. Gather up all his shoes peppering the bedroom floor and put them all back in the closet. Show up at your friend’s house when you know she’s having a hard day with a dessert you made from Pinterest. Look for small ways to serve.
- Be appreciative. Pay attention. When you see your husband jumping in and putting away the kids clothes or cleaning up after dinner, say thank you. Or give her a quick squeeze when you see she’s fixed the buttons on your sport coat. When your loved one speaks service, they are pouring themselves out to serve you — it leaves them feeling vulnerable. Be appreciative.
- Respect their rules and boundaries. If your wife has rules about making sure your clothes are right-side-out before putting them in the hamper, then do it. When small boundaries or rules are violated, your loved one will feel taken advantage of, and completely unappreciated. After all, she’s going through the effort to actually wash, fold and put away all the clothes. The least you can do is keep your shirt from being inside-out when she’s doing it.
If service isn’t your thing, you are going to have to seriously stretch yourself to start speaking this. Maybe you grew up in a home where your mom literally did everything — you didn’t see this practiced at all. There’s no excuses though. If your spouse speaks service, you have to start speaking it, too.
It doesn’t matter how long a day you had, how tired you are, how mentally spent you feel. When you get home, you’re going to have to appreciate that your spouse had a long day too…so roll up your sleeves and do something.
Also…and this is ONLY from my personal experience…your loved one who speaks service might be a little particular about how things are done. Some might call them control freaks, but I’m not going to. They just spend their time speaking DO, and so they know exactly how they like things DONE. Don’t fight it or argue it or tell them to let it go — simply remember number 3 above and respect their rules and boundaries. And reserve the commentary for your prayer time.
This week, when you see your spouse frantically running around trying to do it all, gently walk up and ask, “can I do that for you?” Even if they say no (because they might like it done their way and don’t trust you’ll do that), sometimes the asking speaks volumes.
The key to making all this work is grace and motive. If you trust your loved one’s heart is to please you, it makes it so much easier to forgive them for not being fluent and for mispronouncing a few words.
What about you? Do you speak acts of service, or does your spouse? What has and hasn’t worked for you?