The Acts Of Service Love Language Completely Explained

Humans are complicated, and it can be hard for us to communicate. Even in close relationships, wires get crossed, boundaries get overstepped, and gestures of affection go awry. That's why Dr. Gary Chapman first pioneered the concept of love languages back in the '90s, to help couples better exchange meaningful acts of love and appreciation (via Claibourne Counseling).

According to Dr. Chapman's model, there are five basic ways we tend to give and receive affection: through words of affirmation (i.e., compliments), quality time, physical touch, gifts, and acts of service (via 5 Love Languages). Most of these love languages are fairly intuitive, and if you don't know it already, there are several easy ways to determine your love language.

The one love language that may be less obvious is acts of service. No, this doesn't mean volunteering at a food bank or picking up litter on the highway. Just like the other four love languages, acts of service is all about expressing regard in a way that's meaningful for both the giver and the recipient. Here's what to know about this unique love language.

What defines the acts of service love language?

In a poll of 10,000 people, acts of service tied with gifts as the second most popular love language, netting 20% of the responses (per HuffPost). But what is it all about? At its core, acts of service is about exchanging favors or completing tasks to make your partner happy. By easing their workload, you're showing that you care (via The Family Centre).

Unlike someone who values words of affirmation, declarations of devotion aren't necessarily enough. Not to be cynical, but as clinical psychologist Beverly Palmer points out to Women's Health, not everyone who says "I love you" really means it. So where words are extremely profound for some people, those with acts of service as a love language want you to walk the walk rather than talk the talk (per BetterHelp). These individuals are thirsty for concrete signs that you really care about them.

So, why not gifts? Well, much like those who prefer quality time, people with the acts of service love language are likely to value time at a premium. So if you use some of your precious time to do something for them, whether that's making them a cup of coffee or driving them to the airport, it makes a bigger impact. As holistic therapist Medina Colaku tells MindBodyGreen, "An act of service is about dedicated time and effort, usually in a nonverbal way. It is quite literally showing up in ways that are tangible, meaning actions speak louder than words."

How to communicate affection through acts of service

Does your S.O. get the warm fuzzies when you do something nice for them? Acts of service can take many different forms, depending on what you and your partner value. In this love language, showing affection may mean taking on chores, errands, or other tasks. But before you start, it's important to find out what your partner will see as most helpful (via MasterClass).

"To make sure that you are able to truly express love effectively with acts of service, remember to check in with your partner to make sure the action you are taking will be a true help to them, and that they are willing to allow you to help in this way," marriage and family therapist Samantha Kingma recommends to Cosmopolitan. "If your partner does not want help with something, be mindful that this is not a rejection, and that there are likely many other ways your partner would feel comfortable with you helping and showing love."

If your partner isn't comfortable asking for what they need, try prompting them with questions like, "Would you like a massage? Can I bring you anything? How can I help with house cleaning this weekend?"

Even if only one person in your relationship prioritizes acts of service, you can make it work. When you and your partner have different love languages, the key is to express affection not just in your way, but also in theirs. Sure, bring them a present or tell them how beautiful they look. But pair that with an action, like offering to drive so that they can enjoy a cocktail. As long as you're both putting in a good-faith effort to make each other feel cherished in a way that matters, you'll get the point across.