When David and I were first married, I could not help but notice the many unexpected things he did for me. I enjoyed having my car washed and opening the dishwasher to find everything had been put away. He did not mind helping me make the bed in the mornings, and I never had to remind him to take out the trash. My dad was the same way, so I decided this was normal behavior and took David for granted. However, overtime, I noticed David’s frustration when I went a few weeks without washing my car or I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning. I took the attitude, “It’s my car. Why should he care?” “He has other shirts to wear. Why did he need what was at the cleaners right now?”
But the message David was receiving was disrespect. Clean cars matter to David and putting his freshly laundered shirts in his closet on a weekly basis made him feel valued and respected. While I appreciated the things David did for me, I did not receive the message of “you are special to me” when he emptied the dishwasher. I considered it to be a part of sharing household chores. All I wanted were words of affirmation and quality one-on-one time with him. His acts of service did not mean as much to me, because he was not speaking one of my top love languages.
When speaking a love language to your spouse (or in any relationship), it needs to be in the language they understand. We speak all 5 languages, but some are much higher on our list than others.
If acts of service are tops for your spouse, consider asking them to make a list of 4 things they would love for you to do. What would make their face light up? Does taking the initiative to bathe and put the children to bed give your spouse time to read or detox after a long day? Maybe they would love for you to take the initiative to bring dinner home. When acts of service are high on your partner’s list, being proactive becomes important. Serving with a joyful heart is also part of the package. If they sense you are dreading the chore, the effectiveness of your gesture will wane. The 5 Love Languages are just that – loving through language. And your love must be freely given. Acts of service is one way to make deposits into your marriage bank which ultimately will foster healthy relationships.
Patti Hatton, MA, LPC