How To Love Your Spouse Through Your Actions

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Washing the laundry is not very sexy in and of itself, but for the one whose top love language is 'Acts of Service', that is one of the most loving things their spouse could do to express love to them.  (For a brief introduction to the 5 Love Languages, read this article, or to take the free online test, follow this link).  According to Dr. Gary Chapman, 'acts of service' include doing things you know your spouse would like you to do. This means you desire to express your love by serving your spouse. Acts of service could be grocery shopping, cooking meals, cleaning dishes, removing hair from the shower drain, doing the laundry, vacuuming, getting the car washed, changing diapers, the list is as endless as the tasks. 

The challenge with acts of service is a matter of expectations and demands. If acts of service is your love language, it is important to remember, no one likes to be forced to do anything.  Love cannot be demanded. Love is always freely given. As with all the other love languages, you cannot expect your spouse to read your mind and understand what they must do to express their love.  It is important to express your needs in the form of a request.  Requests begin with 'I wish' or 'I would like' rather than 'you must' or 'why haven't you'.  As Dr. Chapman writes, "requests give direction to love, but demands stop the flow of love."

Here are some things to keep in mind if acts of service is either you or your spouse's love language:

  • What we do for each other while we are dating is usually not how it will be after marriage. Before marriage we are in the obsessed love stage. After marriage we revert back to the people we were before. Our actions are influenced by the model of our parents, our personality, our perception of love, our emotions, needs, and desires.
  • Love is a choice and cannot be coerced. Criticism and demands tend to drive a wedge. You can give guidance to love by making a request, but you cannot create the will to love.  Acts of service are not expressions of love when done out of fear, guilt, manipulation or resentment. Do not allow yourself to be a doormat for others to treat as an object. 
  • People tend to criticize their spouse in the area where they have the most emotional need. Criticism is an ineffective way of pleading for love. If your spouse tends to criticize, try asking for clarification to understand why it is important. Doing so may turn the criticism from a demand to a request. 
  •  Be aware of stereotypes around marital roles. Whatever your perceptions, chances are you and your spouse perceives marital roles differently. Both must have a willingness to examine and change stereotypes if necessary.

Action Step

If 'acts of service' is your love language, try making a 'Request List' where you write down the top 4 things your spouse can do that would make you feel loved. Be concrete and specific.  Make sure they seem reasonable to your spouse.  

For example:

  1. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper every morning.
  2. Do the dishes if I have cooked. 
  3. Vacuum once a week.  
  4. Make dinner/order take-out once a week.   

If your spouse's love language is 'acts of service' it is important to understand that your actions are an act of love towards your spouse. Ask your spouse to make a request list so you know how they will feel emotionally cared for. 

After you try the action step, please share how it affected your relationship in the weeks after.  What did you find to be the most surprising reality after getting married? Have you changed any of your stereotypes about marital roles since getting married?