Acts of Service as Habit: why I made a love language calendar

I recently discovered a way to make household chores fun.

“Serve one another in love.” – Galatians 5:13

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We started drawing cats to indicate a kitty litter change. Then T surprised me with fun star stickers one day and I took over the litter. The hearts, which I started the other day, represent other Acts of Service.

It’s rare that I read a book that fundamentally changes the way I live. Earlier this year I read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, a book given to me by my mother-in-law. The Five Love Languages has panned out to become perhaps the most inspiring and life-enhancing book I’ve read so far this year (here’s my 2018 reading list, if you’re like me and always looking for book inspiration).

Chapman says we all express and experience love in at least one of five ways, and if we can learn how to best communicate and receive that love, our romantic and personal relationships will deepen. I highly recommend you read his bestselling book to learn more. Acts of Service is the fourth love language, the others being Quality Time (my #1 love language), Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, and Gift Giving.

After reading his book earlier this year, I both understood my relationships better and immediately felt inspired. Happily married to one of the most generous, giving, and kind humans I know, I started thinking of ways to incorporate more loving behaviors into my marriage to demonstrate my love. Chapman’s 5-part dissection of what love looks like on a practical level helped me get really clear on how to make sure my husband (and other close friends/family) feels loved. Chapman basically gives you the recipe for a sustainably happy marriage, which when you think about it, is a pretty incredible thing to know and practice.

Now couple this with the fact that I’m obsessed–and I mean obsessed–with using calendars for habit building. In 2012 I flossed every single day. It was my new year’s resolution and I stuck with it thanks to a calendar and dollar store star stickers. I’ve since extended that visual strategy to other areas of my life, usually with positive and promising results.

A Nature Conservatory calendar hangs in my bathroom, where I still use dot stickers to help me keep track of my flossing habit. I have a small 3-inch by 5-inch prayer calendar near my yoga mats and props, given to me each year by my Godmother, on which I use small star stickers to keep track of my yoga and meditation habit.  And finally, I have a Sierra Club calendar hanging near the patio door. It is slowly accumulating heart and large star stickers to keep track of my Acts of Service.

At this point in our lives, the most helpful Acts of Service include cleaning the 3 kitty litter boxes, cleaning the kitchen, making lunches, washing the sheets, doing the laundry, and cleaning the bathroom. Since he is a full-time graduate student and new Dungeon Master for his newly formed Dungeons and Dragons group–a role that requires tremendous time, preparation, and imagination– we’re both busy and exhausted most days. And chores suck. But I find that when I reframe our chores as Acts of Service, I enjoy doing them and he appreciates having them done.

We’ve always been very egalitarian in how we handle chores, with each of us doing things as they come up. Thinking about how much T does for me, this month I took over cleaning the kitty litter because I wanted to consciously focus on my Acts of Service for him. I now dedicate myself to changing the litter three times per week. As a result, I’ve become inspired to fill the off days with other Acts of Service.

On Thursday, I emptied the dishwasher and deep cleaned the kitchen when I got home from work, a daily chore I usually leave to mutual procrastination. Today, I washed the sheets, did the laundry, cleaned the kitchen and baked homemade bread. Each chore felt like a joy because I knew he would feel so loved and appreciated as a result of me taking over and letting him relax. As a bonus, I’m a visual, fairly linear person, so “earning” that heart sticker for my efforts further solidifies the happiness I feel in response!

What do you think? Think this strategy could work for you? Have you read Chapman’s book? What is your love language?!!

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9 thoughts on “Acts of Service as Habit: why I made a love language calendar

  1. Mine is Acts of Service and my husband’s is Words of Affirmation. It causes so much tension between us!! I feel like I can’t give him those words of affirmation because he’s not doing any acts of service for me! And he doesn’t want to do anything for me because he feels like I don’t praise him for being the breadwinner. It’s a really bad cycle we need to get out of. I think your calendar trick is something we should try!

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    1. Thanks for sharing! I hope the calendar strategy works for you 🙂 Have you read the book? Chapman gives some really great examples at the end of each chapter for how to communicate and love your partner. Might be helpful if you haven’t read it (or read it in a while). xo

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        1. The book offers surprisingly more insight than the quiz and TED talk. I’d been meaning to read it for years, but put it off because I thought I knew the gist of what it was about. How wrong I was! I found it really helpful, especially since I do not tend to be as “in tune” as I’d maybe like to be lol.

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