What It Means If You Or Your Partner’s Love Language Is “Acts Of Service”

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Knowing how you give and receive affection and love is an excellent way of making sure that your relationships are as healthy as possible. Identifying your love language and that of your loved ones can help you ensure that you are communicating well and that everyone feels appreciated in a way they understand. 

Here’s what you need to know about identifying if you have a love language centered on acts of service.

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What are love languages, and why do they matter?

You may have heard people talk about the five love languages in regard to relationships of all kinds, especially romantic ones. They were identified in a 1992 book by Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages. 

The basic concept of love languages is that we all have a certain “language” in which we prefer to give and receive love. In other words, they’re the mediums of providing or accepting affection that make us feel the most fulfilled and cared for. While most of us appreciate the love that’s expressed in many or all five ways, we typically have one or two we value more than the others. 

The five love languages are:

  • Quality time, which refers to spending meaningful time together with your partner or loved one
  • Physical touch, which refers to affection in the form of hugs, kisses, cuddling, etc.
  • Words of affirmation, which refers to compliments, encouragement, or other verbal expressions of love or appreciation
  • Acts of service, which refers to your partner or loved one taking the initiative to do a helpful or thoughtful task for you
  • Receiving gifts, which refers to getting presents or other meaningful items that show that your partner or loved one is thinking of you

Knowing your love language can be a tool that helps you find or build better relationships. When both partners can communicate their needs in this simple, understandable form, the likelihood of them getting more fulfillment from the relationship is higher. It can also help partners understand what to avoid. For example, someone whose primary love language is words of affirmation may be more negatively affected by words of criticism. Overall, being familiar with each other’s love languages can be a force for good in relationships.

Note that love languages don’t only apply to romantic relationships, though. They can be helpful to think about in any kind of relationship, including those between friends, parents, and children, or even bosses and employees. The core of the concept is simply that people feel more fulfilled in relationships of any kind when affection or appreciation is expressed to them in the language that they understand best.

How popular is acts of service as a love language?

At this time, there isn’t a wealth of academic research on which of the love languages is most common.

Dr. Gary Chapman (who popularized the love languages framework) did a poll of 10,000 users on his website one month to see what their primary love languages were. In that sample, acts of service were tied with quality time for second place.

Remember, too, that even if your primary love language is something else, you may still appreciate acts of service. Your primary love language is just that: the one that resonates with you the most.

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Examples of acts of service

Acts of service can take many different forms. In general, it means going out of your way to do something thoughtful for a person you love. If this is your partner’s primary love language, showing them love through acts of service could look like:

  • Taking care of an errand or chore for them, especially if it’s one they dislike or have been putting off
  • Making them a meal
  • Planning a romantic date night for the two of you
  • Giving them a back or neck massage
  • Organizing a surprise birthday party for them
  • Learning something new for them (a skill or hobby they enjoy, a language they speak, fun facts they’d find interesting)
  • Walking the dog or entertaining the kids in the morning so they can sleep in

The important thing about expressing love to your partner in their primary language is to do it in a way they’ll appreciate. For example, some people prefer to do certain errands or chores themselves because they like when they’re done in a specific way. In a case like this, taking over one of those tasks for them wouldn’t be your best choice for an act of service because they may not appreciate it. You know your partner best, so you’re in the optimal position to decide what type of act of service they may appreciate the most.

Why someone might appreciate acts of service

While you don’t have to understand why you’re wired to appreciate one love language over another to benefit, it can be interesting to think about where your preference might come from. Or, if you’re mulling over your partner’s primary love language, insight into where it comes from may help you be able to “speak” it better.

If someone’s primary language is acts of service, they might live by the “actions speak louder than words” motto when it comes to love. They might feel more safe in their relationship when they see their partner manifesting their care in tangible ways, rather than simply hearing them express it verbally.

Finally, while little research on the connection between childhood experiences and adult love languages is currently available, some have hypothesized that there could be a link. Some suggest that a person’s love language correlates to the main way in which they received love as a child. For acts of service, it could mean the person’s parents or caregivers always made them meals and helped them with their homework. Others believe that your love language reflects the type of love you didn’t receive enough of as a child. While possible links are still unclear, thinking about the forms in which you did or did not receive love during childhood could be an interesting element of better understanding your primary love language today.

How to tell if acts of service is your love language

Is acts of service your primary love language? Since there are only five, simply going through the list and reflecting on each one can help you understand which one might be top for you. Try to think of a moment when your current or former partner made you feel especially loved and cared for. If you think of the time they replaced your car’s tail light for you without asking or when you came home to a beautiful meal they’d prepared, for example, it’s possible that this is the love language you identify with most.

You might also think about the ways in which you typically show love to others because it often reflects what we’d like to receive back. If you find yourself naturally doing little tasks like making your partner coffee in the morning, planning date nights, or taking care of the dishes when they’ve had a long day, it could be a sign that you show love in this way. It follows, then, that you likely prefer to be shown love in this way. If you’re still not sure whether this is your love language, you can always take the online quiz to get more insight.

A man with long dark hair, glasses, and a yellow sweater embraces his partner, who has dark hair and a beige sweater, as they hold their baby and smile at the camera.

Get help identifying your love language for more fulfilling relationships

If you’re experiencing difficulties in your relationship or you feel you would like professional assistance in improving your relationship, you might consider seeking the guidance of a therapist. They can help you recognize patterns in your and your partner’s behaviors and equip you with tools to better communicate and manage conflict. Connecting with a trained counselor is easier than ever since virtual therapy is becoming increasingly popular. Research suggests that online and in-person therapy offer similar benefits, which makes this therapeutic format a more convenient and available choice for many people. 

Through BetterHelp, you can get quickly matched with a mental health professional who you communicate with via phone, video, and/or chat. You can meet with them in your own home and have messaging 24/7 to receive guidance between sessions. 

A 2022 study found a correlation between couples in satisfying relationships and couples who showed affection in their partner’s love language. If you’re experiencing challenges in your relationship, they may stem from many different factors. But knowing you and your partner’s love languages and then working to express affection to each other in those ways could have the potential to improve your dynamic.

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