There are various Greek words translated “love” in any English Bible. The word used in Ephesians 5:25 is “agape” love, which is a love based on principle. (It is not merely based on emotion or feeling.) Although affectionate feelings should certainly exist in a marriage relationship, the love should not be solely based on an emotion. Why? Because emotions constantly change depending on the circumstances and over time.
The verse explains that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. The church is the group of individuals during this time who are called or drawn of God and strive to follow in Jesus’ footsteps (John 6:44).
Christ’s love for the church is not based on a feeling. Instead, he realizes that each individual member is called specifically by the heavenly Father. Jesus respects this choice, and loves them (even when they mess up), because they embrace the character likeness of God and are trying to follow in His ways. That’s the principle that his love is based on.
Similarly, husbands should love their wives through the principle of his commitment to her, since he is in a covenant relationship with her (ie, his marital vows). This means that even through arguments, disagreements and tough times, the husband should continually provide for his wife both physically and mentally, to the same degree as when he is emotionally infatuated with her.
The context of chapter 5 explains that a man naturally and instinctively nourishes, protects and cherishes his own body. He should love his wife in the same way and to that same degree. He should not neglect her, but rather work to be in tune with her needs.
In the picture, Christ sacrificed himself for his bride, which shows full and utter commitment. Husbands should tenderly care for their wives as much as they care for themselves (though individualized to her specific needs and interests), in order to reflect the love he has for her.