Many single parents were never married/divorced but for those who were, it comes with unique challenges especially for dads. Today’s post comes from a chat I had with my friend Chris Steenmeyer, Family Life Pastor at Mountain Springs Church in Colorado Springs.
TEZ: Chris thanks for being willing to talk about your life and maybe a little bit of advice for parents.
CHRIS: Thank you Tez, happy to share my story.
TEZ: I know our journeys are similar in some ways. Like me, before you remarried you were a single dad. How old were each of your kids at the time and what was it like that first year trying to parent alone?
CHRIS: Well, I was living in Hawaii at the time. The children were 5, 3, and 2 years old when my wife walked out on me. I suddenly had the kids every night and it was brutal—a mess! My ex watched them in the day while I was at work, but other than that, I was on my own.
TEZ: Assuming you were working a full-time job, how did you manage those evenings with three kids?
CHRIS: My single brother helped from time to time. My church wasn’t very helpful because I was so new to that congregation. No one really knew me well enough to know I was alone or needed help. I really never looked for help because to be honest, I was angry at God for allowing me to go through this.
TEZ: That had to be tough. Especially when us guys are not prone to seek out help anyway…for anything.
Now, it would be presumptuous to assume everyone is called to re-marry. But for those who are, in my book, The Single Dad Detour, I mention the importance of dads waiting to remarry.
A lot of guys didn’t like my advice. It’s hard for men to be alone. But you waited quite a while. Tell us, was that intentional? What are the negatives and positives of that decision?
CHRIS: Tez, I was alone 8 years before I started dating Sarah, my current wife. I didn’t trust women, so I had no desire to date or remarry. I wasn’t ready financially either. I was broke and couldn’t support a woman. And spiritually ready? No way! I probably would have fallen into sexual sin had I tried dating any earlier. I was a Christian, but I wasn’t walking with God and pursuing him. I was too mad at him.
I’d say wait as long as it takes to work through forgiveness and all the other issues that set you back. Anytime a marriage is broken, there are wounds that need to heal. If you get romantically involved too soon, you’re still grieving the loss, regardless of who was at fault.
We need to walk through that, and it takes time. I’d say a good rule of thumb is until you stop saying anything negative about your ex, you’re not ready. Think about how many years there was disfunction in the relationship. That time is often a good gauge for how long it will take to recover and move on. We also need to factor how long it takes our kids to recover too.
TEZ: Great advice Chris. On another topic, how did you reconcile your faith with your sex drive? After all, for years you’d been used to intimacy as a married man. Now suddenly, nothing.
CHRIS: Wow, it just got real! Thanks for asking tough questions—single men need to hear this.
I struggled with being in a relationship, I didn’t want one. So I didn’t go out looking for sexual satisfaction. Sadly, I did turn toward porn so that I didn’t have to invest in a relationship.
Because I had no desire to be close to God. I didn’t repent immediately. But I dealt with lots of guilt. After I worked thru my anger and bitterness and I my heart was softened again toward the Lord, the first thing to leave was porn.
TEZ: Thanks for your transparent honesty. It’s important to understand how a hard heart can lead you down roads that can really destroy us. What a great piece of truth for guys reading this interview. There’s so much shame with that sin and you just lifted all that into the light to remind us all that nothing is beyond Christ’s redemptive reach. I don’t mean to minimize porn’s effects, but we tend to give different sins varying degrees of awfulness but it’s just not that way with God.
CHRIS: Yes, once the Holy Spirit was able to convict me of my sin, I saw what needed to change.
TEZ: Now, your new bride Sarah, had children of her own. Tell us about that. I’m sure it was no perfect Brady Bunch. What was it like blending your families and how did it affect your first few years of marriage?
CHRIS: First, we took our time dating, just to see what issues might come up. Blending families is complex. We had a ton of challenges at first. Our household cultures were different. My wife’s family had a way of doing things and certain ideals about what’s important… and so did we.
We had a lot of tension between the kids and between us adults. I had 8 years of experience as a single dad which I unwittily expected them to embrace. That experience made me arrogant at times.
I was also in children’s ministry, so I assumed a lot about kids in general. I forgot to look at my new step kids as individuals.
One of the biggest adjustments was that her oldest son was younger than all my boys. So his position as oldest was gone—he was suddenly thrust into life as the baby of the tribe.
TEZ: And now you have a beautiful little girl together and another on the way…do you find yourself parenting these younger ones differently now that you’re older?
CHRIS: Of course, my experience and age play into that. I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the little moments. Chores, projects, and errands aren’t as important. I’m more patient with disobedience and with their poor choices. I don’t lose my temper as quickly and look at it as a teachable moment.
TEZ: If you had one piece of advice or encouragement for single dads who are struggling today, what would you say?
CHRIS: I’d say:
- Tough it out as best you can.
- Love your kids more than yourself.
- Take one day at a time.
- Biblically, don’t walk away from Jesus. Press into God more than ever.
- Make sure you have community to help you get out of your funk.
- Allow others to speak life into you.
- Look for someone further along in that journey who can encourage you.
- For society’s expectations, know your identity in Christ.
- Focus on measuring up to God’s standards, not the world’s.
TEZ: You obviously have a heart for families, because it’s your full-time job as a Family Pastor. Where can people reach you if they need counseling or resources to aid them in this journey of single parenting?
CHRIS: I don’t provide formal counseling, but I’m willing to talk with someone and do short-term mentoring. They can call the church office at (719)495-6688 and ask for me.
TEZ: Chris, thanks again for taking time to share your story. Your testimony is an encouragement and blessing to me and I’m sure many others.
CHRIS: My pleasure. To God be the glory.
Christopher has a blended family of ten and longs to see transformation in the lives of himself and his family. He’s spent the last 9 years investing in a young generation that is being raised up to passionately follow Jesus. More and more he desires to see the worldwide Church come alongside families in a practical way that equips them to accomplish all God has for them. In his spare time, he loves sports and outdoor activities with his family.