We all journey into marriage with our hearts brimming over with hopes and dreams. But all the aspirations in the world don’t stop life from jumping in and trying to spoil the joy of being married. A lot can happen between the “I do” at the altar and the years that follow.  We can end up married to someone yet emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically disengaged.

I have come to believe that one primary problem seems to sit at the root of most couples who feel disengaged. I call it the “full plate” phenomenon. When your spouse (or you) has something that puts them emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually on overload something else has to be shut off in life -- and that something else often becomes your marriage.

See if any of these scenarios sound familiar:

Job Stress. Your spouse gets a new job (great, right?) but is entirely consumed with work. Even at home, the calls and emails never stop. You hear your spouse act jovial and upbeat with colleagues for phone conversations, but when you try to talk to him or her, all you get is a short answer. He seems unappreciative of the ways you help, and you feel ignored and out of the loop.

Baby Blues. You just had a baby, and one of the happiest moments of your life seems to be pulling you apart. Your wife is constantly exhausted, concerned more about the baby than you, and seems to have lost the “fun” side of her personality. Your husband seems to have found 101 ways to be unavailable to help. You both feel alone, overwhelmed and a bit resentful of the other person. You wonder why this bundle of joy is zapping yours.

Maybe your spouse doesn't have the stress of a new job but instead, like many in today's economy, just lost his or her job -- and isn’t doing much to get a new one. Or perhaps she just quit housekeeping, or maybe he completely stopped coming to church and praying with you. 

The list of examples could go on for miles, but in each of these situations, the disengaged spouses have full plates. That individual is emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually on overload, and when it comes to their marriage, well, there just isn’t much left over! 

Regardless of the specifics of your situation, "full plate" scenarios can be boiled down to four basic types you need to be aware of: 

Emotional Overload.  Emotional wounds sap a ton of energy as we either ignore them, push through them or sit down and cry about them. Unresolved pain in your life takes up heart space that could otherwise be given to the Lord, your spouse, your family, etc. 

If you have an emotional wound, God wants to heal you! He is in the business of repairing the broken! I minister to women, and I hear their stories of hurt. I see their bewildered husbands who don’t understand why their wives seem to suddenly lose interested in sex, keeping up the house and even talking to them (you know there is something seriously wrong when a woman doesn’t want to talk!). 

In each of the cases I have seen, the wife has had a full plate of hurt and has shut down under the weight of it. Sometimes the hurt can be old, and she is just now coming to the place where she is starting to emotionally process it. Or, sometimes she has gotten stuck in the healing process somewhere along the way.

As I mentioned earlier, you or your spouse could also be emotionally on overload because of a life transition. Life is fast paced, change is constant, and sometimes our emotions get tangled along the way. Some changes can be good, like having a new baby or buying a home. Yet they still wear you out emotionally. From losing a job to losing a loved one, crisis situations can put a big strain on you individually or together. New babies and seeing those babies leave the nest are some of the hardest emotional transitions in the phases of marriage.