What is love? The verb used here in Colossians 3:19 and in most of the New Testament is agapao, which is a self–sacrificing love in which you give of yourself for the benefit of another. The verb is a present imperative, so it means to continually be loving your wife.
To define love, let’s look at the opposite of love. It is not hate, because that is an emotional response. If agapao meant an emotional reaction, then it would be impossible to “love” your enemy (Matt 5:44). The word for emotional romantic love—-eros—-is not used in the New Testament.
The best word to express the opposite of biblical love is selfishness. Love always seeks to benefit someone else, without regard to personal benefit, whereas selfishness causes the person to always seek to benefit him/herself. When in doubt, simply ask yourself, who is the beneficiary?
What do you do if there is no response from your spouse? The believing husband is to habitually do caring things for his spouse, regardless of the response or lack of response he receives. Any resulting hurt or resentment must be countered quickly or it will generate bitterness and a desire for vengeance.
The command is to “stop being embittered,” implying that this was a common response that had to cease.
There is no justification for disobedience, especially in marriage: “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many” (Heb 12:15NLT). Bitterness is often cloaked in the garb of loss of personal rights: what we think we deserve and need has been denied or ignored.
Selfishness rears its head up again, and the results can be ugly: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior” (Eph 4:31NLT).
A deteriorating relationship is only changed by a conviction to forgive, as Jesus forgives you (Eph 4:30) and a renewal of your commitment to your spouse, no matter what happens. His grace is sufficient for you.
“Lord, not everyone we seek to love and benefit responds in appreciation to our care for them, but neither did the people of Your time always respond positively to You. May my heart learn from Your example to always forgive and never become embittered, no matter how they may respond to me.”