Do you wonder about yourself in terms of the following questions? Do you wonder about how your partner answers these questions?
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Get the Love Demystified Workbook in paperback https://amzn.to/2lQT2BT or as an ebook (click Shop tab on this site)
Show me, don’t tell me.
JUL 26, 2019
If you want to know why you do the things you do, you might look to your zodiac sign. For intel about your social tendencies, maybe your Myers-Briggs personality. But for understanding what makes you feel special in a relationship? Well, that’s one for love languages.
If you’ve read up on anything related to relationships and romance, like, ever, there’s a good chance you’ve come across Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages at some point in your research (or, okay, at girls night).
A quick rundown: If compliments make you melt, your love language is probably Words of Affirmation. If you thrive on the thoughtfulness behind a present, Receiving Gifts is yours. Look forward to dinners for two all weeklong? That’s Quality Time. And if you’re all about holding hands or you feel most connected during sex, you speak the language of Physical Touch.
The language that tends to get a bad rap (aside from Receiving Gifts, which isn’t about materialism, btw), however, is Acts of Service. It describes people whose hearts swell at the thought of coming home to dinner on the table with the promise of an empty sink or a foot rub for dessert. If this sounds like you, you feel most loved when people do things for you, not just with you or to you.
But here’s the thing: The Acts of Service language doesn’t make you a high-maintenance or lazy nag. All it means is that, for you, actions truly speak louder than words.
Okay, tell me more—what does ‘Acts of Service’ say about me?
At its core, this language is about demonstrations of love.
Since saying “I love you” doesn’t actually guarantee that the speaker means it, some people respond better to seeing someone show their feelings, says Beverly Palmer, PhD, clinical psychologist, professor emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and author of Love Demystified.
That’s exactly what makes you respond to this language: If someone can recognize all that you do on your own and wants to step in to help make your life a little easier, that, to you, is real love.
Their actions are actually less about the deed itself and more about showing you that they are on your team.
If your partner goes out of their way to pick your sister up from the airport, or call the realtor so you don’t have to, you hear “I care about you enough to sacrifice my own time for your benefit.” And that’s not something you find every day.
Is Acts of Service ever a bad thing?
Okay, brace yourself: Acts of Service can be a little problematic if you’re not super self-aware.
While every relationship should be about balance, where both partners get their needs equally met, having this particular love language could make you more susceptible to letting expectations get in the way of an otherwise happy and healthy situation. In other words, if you think your partner should be doing X or Y for you, rather than letting them choose how to show their support, you could self-sabotage your bond.
“Unbalanced relationships where one person expects too much and thinks their partner must meet those expectations to prove that they love them” is when things get tricky, Palmer says. No one wants a relationship that comes with a list of chores.
Think about it: At work, you’d be put off by a new employee who feels like they’re entitled to certain things before they’ve even shown their commitment to the company. Similarly, your partner should feel like their demonstrations of love are reciprocated and their choice, at their will—not your demand.
Want a stronger relationship? Steal this couple’s secrets:
Gotcha. So if this is my love language, how do I make a relationship work?
Communication, communication, oh, and um, some more communication.
When acts of service are involved, there’s no room for assumptions, says Palmer. Assuming your S.O. knows which acts of service you value most and expecting them to perform them at all is a surefire way to make your partner feel taken advantage of.
So here’s how to be straightforward without demanding anything in return:
If you have a hard time expressing your needs, talking to a therapist can help you feel more comfortable. Either way, if you prefer to be more subtle, try telling your partner about a time a friend or family member did something for you that meant a lot to you, suggests Palmer.
So to ensure they never feel taken for granted, after you talk through which acts of service are major for you, keep an eye out for when they actually do them (or something similar). Say: “Hey, I noticed you picked up the dry-cleaning today while I was stuck at work. I’m going to need those pants this week, so thank you so much for doing that.”
Once you figure it out, keep that intel top of mind and create opportunities to speak their language (surprise them with a massage, bring home their favorite cookie…you get the idea). Otherwise, you’ll find these acts of service you crave become less and less frequent when your S.O. isn’t feeling the love from you.
Bottom line: The Acts of Service love language is just as legit as all the others. Don’t let anyone (including yourself) shame you for it.
As long as you’re offering your partner the biggest service of all—speaking their love language in return—go on and enjoy that empty dishwasher, guilt-free.
ARYELLE SICLAIT Assistant EditorAryelle Siclait is an assistant editor at Women’s Health.
Our nation is increasingly becoming divided into opposing groups. Yes, most of us have a tendency to feel most comfortable when we associate with people who look or think like ourselves. People who look or think differently than we do, make us uncomfortable. So, we stay away from them and isolate ourselves even further with our own kind.
Our isolation from others is intensified as we subscribe to popular media which confirms our point of view. People outside our group may have a different point of view but we are not exposed to it. Then we begin surmising what other people think. People who dress like Muslims might think like or (gasp) be terrorists. People who are trying to emigrate to the United States might think they can be freeloaders. These stereotypes all come from seeing people outside our group as a threat, which popular media perpetuates.
It is the way we see people not like us that creates fear and hate—not the actual reality. Yes, some people from our group as well as some people outside our group are terrorists and freeloaders, but most people are not. Yet we continue to have a perception of people not like us as a threat.
To change our perception, we must be exposed to people not like us in positive contexts. One way to develop positive images is through travel where we interact with others—this could be travel within or outside the United States. Another way is to view positive images and stories about people from groups other than our own in popular media (social media, television, magazines, newspapers), schools, churches, even stores.
We need to reach out and speak to people other than those in our own group. But, most of all, we need to listen to them.
As the 1965 song reminds us, “what the world needs now is love…not just for some but for everyone.”
The challenge today is to ask ourselves, “Can we show love towards everyone?”
Can you love someone who has beliefs very different from yours, someone who has hurt you, someone who is a stranger? Wholeheartedly answering “yes” is difficult because love seems to be restricted to close relationships. Indeed, we expect romantic partners and family members to love each other. But loving a stranger—that isn’t love.
Is it possible to love someone who is very different from you? Oops, maybe we shouldn’t have put that person into the box of “different”. Even seeing someone as different, and judging that person as “the other” has already put a limit on your ability to love. For loving another means identifying commonalities and recognizing our common humanity. Someone may look, think, or act differently than you do but that person’s feelings are no different from your own. So, a connection can be built by recognizing the feelings that are behind the thoughts and actions. A loving response then lets the other person know you recognize these feelings.
Love that goes beyond close relations to strangers and even to all of humanity means responding with understanding rather than judgment. Seeing another person through your eyes often involves judging that person. Seeing another person through their eyes leads to understanding that person. You begin to feel what the other person is feeling, to have empathy and to tell that person what you are experiencing when you are seeing through their eyes. An empathetic connection is the essence of love and it can be created with anyone.
Let us choose love over fear.
“I want us to be more intimate,“ she says. “Intimate,” he thinks, “that must mean she wants more sex.”
Men and women often mean very different things when they think about intimacy. Women often are asking for more emotional closeness when they ask for more intimacy. Men, on the other hand, sometimes confuse sexual and emotional closeness. Some men might even admit that they have no clue what a woman is asking for when she asks for more intimacy. And some men and women can use sexual intimacy as a substitute for emotional closeness.
What, then, is intimacy?
Intimacy is the ability to engage in close and reciprocal relationships, to engage in cooperative behavior for mutual benefit, and to flexibly respond to the range of others’ ideas, emotions, and behaviors. Engaging in cooperative behavior for mutual benefit is a good description of sexual intimacy as well as emotional intimacy.
Intimacy strengthens close relationships and fosters mutual growth. Intimacy is needed even in platonic relationships because it promotes positive interactions in dyads and teams working towards a mutual goal.
What interferes with creating intimacy?
Intimacy involves giving and receiving understanding and support. Some people tend to receive but not give. What can hold you back from giving fully of yourself in a relationship is a need to defend against hurt. Or you may be so judgmental and defensive that you do not respond flexibly to other’s ideas.
How does a couple create emotional intimacy?
In order to create emotional intimacy, you have to let go of your defensiveness. You need to listen to the other person with a non-judgmental ear. And you need to be willing to be non-defensively open in what you share with the other person. When you are together, talking and listening with these attitudes increases emotional intimacy.
Intimacy is an essential skill in loving relationships and Dr. Beverly Palmer shows how intimacy can be developed in her recently released book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.
When people are asked what aspects they value in a potential partner they tend to list physical qualities, socially desirable characteristics, and unrealistic expectations. Furthermore, as we learned in the previous blog posting, we tend to make judgments about the other person’s trustworthiness, competence, and likability within the first tenth of a second, during the first glimpse of that person.1
We know that, for short-term relationships, physical qualities are valued but for long-term relationships, honesty, warmth and intelligence are valued.2 Other qualities typically valued are sensitivity, consideration, generosity, respect, responsiveness, and responsibility. Yet none of us demonstrate these qualities all of the time. We sometimes show the polar opposite, such as insensitivity, inconsiderateness, selfishness, rudeness, apathy, and irresponsibility.
Therefore, we should not expect these valued qualities to be fully formed and demonstrated all the time. In fact, partners in growth-promoting relationships develop these qualities to a deeper degree as their relationship and they, themselves, mature.3 Yes, do look for these qualities but don’t expect them to always be present.
There are three qualities, however, that are especially important to look for in oneself as well as in a prospective long-term partner. They are so important that they actually predict the ability to form a lasting and growth-promoting relationship.4
These three qualities (some may even call them skills) are empathy, acceptance, and intimacy. Empathy is the capacity to accurately understand others’ experiences and motivations, to appreciate others’ perspectives even if one disagrees with them, and to be aware of the effect of one’s own actions on others. Acceptance is an unconditional love, a love without requiring oneself or the other to be a certain way or meet one’s expectations. Intimacy is the ability to engage in caring, close and reciprocal relationships; to strive for cooperation and mutual benefit; and to flexibly respond to the range of others’ ideas, emotions, and behaviors.5
Does your potential partner listen so carefully to you that he/she can acknowledge the essence of what you said? Does your potential partner make you feel loved just for who you are or does he/she often criticize you for not meeting his/her expectations? Does your potential partner spontaneously disclose what he/she is thinking and feeling at a given moment and respond to your thoughts and feelings in a way that helps you feel close to that person?
1. Willis, J., & Todorov, A. (2006). First impressions making up your mind after a 100-ms exposure to a face. Psychological Science, 17(7), 592-598.
2. Regan, P. C. (1998). What if you can’t get what you want? Willingness to compromise ideal mate selection standards as a function of sex, mate value, and relationship context. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(12), 1294-1303.
3. Beck, A. T. (1988). Love is never enough: How couples can overcome misunderstandings, resolve conflicts, and solve relationship problems through cognitive therapy. New York: HarperCollins.
4. Rogers, C. R. and Sevens, B. (1980). Person to person: The problem of being human: A new trend in psychology. New York: Pocket Books.
Block‐Lerner, J., Adair, C., Plumb, J. C., Rhatigan, D. L., & Orsillo, S. M. (2007). The case for mindfulness‐based approaches in the cultivation of empathy: Does nonjudgmental, present‐moment awareness increase capacity for perspective‐taking and empathic concern?. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33(4), 501-516.
Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2002). A two-factor model for predicting when a couple will divorce: Exploratory analyses using 14‐Year longitudinal data. Family Process, 41(1), 83-96.
5. Reis, H. T. (1990). The role of intimacy in interpersonal relations. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9(1), 15. doi: 10.1521/jscp.19188.8.131.52;
In a truly intimate relationship, the rejections, irritations, and disappointments are as much a part of loving as are the securities, pleasures, and dreams. No marriage is made in heaven and no relationship is built on only the heavenly feelings. But no one ever forewarns us about the trials and tribulations. Instead we believe that if it’s really love it will be sunny days forever, with no dark clouds to muddy up the horizon. After all, we were always told that love is never having to say you’re sorry.
So, with our trusty aphorisms tucked deep within our hearts, we rush off to find the perfect love or, at least, a lover who will never hurt us. And we begin spending a lot of time and energy just trying to avoid any unpleasantness in our newly-found relationship.
What never bothered our partner before, nor bothered us about our partner can become exasperating. We notice he isn’t paying attention when we are talking (has he ever?). Or she has left the door open to welcome the flies again (such a generous spirit). Each morning he leaves her lists of things to do (does he think he is her boss?). She tells him he is headed for diabetes if he doesn’t lose some of that weight (as if she has any control over this). These little quirks and sins against the relationship gradually slip out, with the cumulative effect being disillusionment, resentment, and hurt. What was comingled starts becoming unmingled.
Often, when this inevitable unpleasantness creeps into the relationship, we don’t know how to deal with it. We leave our lover (either emotionally or physically), hoping to find a new love, one which will finally measure up to our ideal. Anyone who has ever been left by a lover knows that love hurts but, by then, it’s too late.
But, it doesn’t have to be the end of the relationship, nor does it have to be a relationship of shared misery. You could use your unpleasant feelings to begin a conversation with your partner. This conversation can help each of you understand the other’s point of view, and even draw you closer together. Or you could realize that you can get past the irritation into a more accepting attitude towards your partner and yourself. Yes, sometimes your partner is selfish and sometimes you can be selfish. So, it is important to let your partner know how his or her behavior affects you. But it is up to your partner to change this behavior, not up to you to constantly complain about it. So why not just accept your flawed partner instead of trying to change him or her?
You may think saying “I love you” is all that is needed in your relationship(s). But, if you live each day as if it could be your last with the person(s) you love, you will find many ways to show your love rather than just announcing your love.
Here are some proven ways to show your love.
Give Reassurance and Emotional Support
Both men and women feel loved when their partner gave assurances that he/she would always be there and supportive.1 Give your partner security by saying you are there for them when they most need it. Show emotional support by being attentive though making eye contact and actively listening by repeating back a bit of what you heard.
Don’t let a day go by without touching your partner. Maybe it is a hug or a kiss, or a shoulder rub. Touch does not have to always signal, “I want sex”—it can signal, “I care about you.” 2 In fact, contrary to stereotypes, men in long-term relationships who get lots of kisses and cuddles report being more sexually satisfied.3
When you are cheerful and optimistic, your replies are comforting for your partner. This positivity also includes being patient and forgiving, showing a cooperative attitude during disagreements, and avoiding criticizing your partner. Researchers have found that both men and women can show this equally in relationships and it is much appreciated by both genders.4
Do Things Together
Sharing household tasks, working together on a mutual (fun) goal, walking and talking (but not about problems), and having a night out all communicate that you love to be with your partner. Although one study found no difference in the men and women using this way of showing love, one other study did find that men tend to using this strategy more than women.5, 6
When your partner does something you like, make sure you say so. And, often, just out of the blue, compliment your partner by saying what, specifically, you love about him/her.
Do Things for Your Partner (Especially Surprises)
Have a plant or flowers sent to your partner at work. Wrap a warm blanket around your partner when he/she needs comforting. Pack a suitcase for each of you and take your partner on a surprise weekend trip. A lot of what love is all about is the attraction, caring, and intimacy you are showing through these actions.7