You hear it all the time from stepfamily experts, parenting blogs and marriage therapists: “Put your relationship first.” But how?

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily drama that plagues many stepfamilies. Talk between couples can tend to center around problems with the ex, discipline issues involving the children, money woes and legal strife. When these topics become the center of discussion for too long, couples can easily become consumed and lose sight of the reasons they came together in the first place.

Stop trying to fix the things you can’t control and redirect your energy toward your partner! Energy spent on matters you can’t control is time wasted. This is precious time you and your partner could be using to strengthen your relationship. Invest in the one thing that brought you together, the one thing that will sustain you through the difficulties of steplife, the one thing that really matters—your relationship.

Here are 5 easy and inexpensive things you can do right now—this weekend—to focus on your partner and reignite the fire:

Use the power of touch. Give your partner a fabulous massage. Touch connects us not only physically, but also mentally. It helps couples to bond and feel united. Massage your partner’s head, hands, feet or shoulders. Light a candle, play some relaxing music and watch the stress between you melt away.

Plan a romantic Italian escape.You probably can't hop on a plane, but you can send the kids to your in-laws’ house, open a bottle of red wine, prepare a delectable pasta dish, light a few candles and set your iPod to the Frank Sinatra music you downloaded for this special evening. Voila! Instantly, you have a romantic Italian-style dinner in your own home.

Profess your love.New couples talk all the time about how much they love the other person. When was the last time you told your partner exactly what it is you admire about them? Here’s a fun way to profess your love: Go to your computer, open a word document and type up a list of all the things you love and enjoy about your partner. Remember to include the little things along with the big things like: “I love the way you make scrambled eggs¬¬—they are the best I’ve ever eaten” and “I love that you work so hard at your job to provide for our family.” Print the list and cut each item into separate pieces of paper. Find a pretty box or container and fill it with the little pieces of paper. When you present this gift, watch your partner’s eyes light up.

Distract yourselves. What do parents do with children on the verge of throwing a fit? They try to distract them with something interesting or fun. So, why don’t we—as adults—use this tactic when we’re upset about something? Train yourself to recognize when you’re dwelling too long on an issue and find a way to distract yourself. Engage in activities you can do together to that don’t involve (and won’t let you) talk about hotbed topics. Go to a movie. Go out with friends. Play cards or a board game. Work on a home project together. Designate “no talk zones” where you agree for a specific period of time not to talk about kids, the ex or anything step-related.

Make "The Stepcouple Pledge" to each other.Designed by Susan Swanson, a licensed therapist and stepfamily expert, this pledge helps couples focus on and strengthen their relationship. Download it from StepMom Magazine at: and read it together. Agree to learn about and help each other work through the most common stepfamily challenges. Remember, together you created this stepfamily, and only TOGETHER can you make it strong, healthy and happy!

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