Latter-day Saint Life

What my long-distance relationship is teaching me about how to feel God’s love

Photo of a young couple checking their flight status on the flight information board at the airport.
Many tips for long-distance relationships can apply to another connection—our relationship with God.
Aleksandar Nakic, Getty Images

Long-distance relationships aren’t easy. But when you love each other and are committed to prioritizing your relationship, the physical separation can be a unique opportunity to draw closer together—despite the miles between you.

As I’ve thought about my long-distance relationship with my boyfriend, I’ve realized that many of the same things we do to stay in touch and help each other feel loved from afar can apply to another connection—my relationship with God.

When you think about it, we’re all in a divine long-distance relationship. Even though we’ve left the physical presence of our Heavenly Father, we can still communicate with Him and build our connection while we’re apart.

Here are five long-distance relationship tips that have completely changed my perspective on feeling God’s love.

1. Look for Evidence of Love

Trust is vital in long-distance relationships. This sense of safety is built over time through consistency and consideration of what you both need to feel secure and supported while you’re apart.

Since you can’t provide or receive reassurance through aspects of in-person connection, such as facial expressions and physical affection, it’s critical to overcommunicate what will help you each feel loved to build a solid foundation for your relationship.

If you get anxious in long-distance relationships or tend to assume the worst based on negative patterns in previous relationships, it can be a game-changer to keep a list detailing positive experiences that have helped you know the other person loves you. Then, when you need reassurance, you can refer back to it and reinforce your trust in your boyfriend or girlfriend while you’re apart.

This strategy has also strengthened my relationship with God. Even though I can’t always feel His presence or know whether He’s listening to my prayers, I can strengthen my faith and trust in Him as I look for assurances of His love.

A concept that’s always stuck with me from a developmental psychology class I took in college is the theory of object permanence, the idea that children learn to develop certainty that things and people still exist—even when they leave the room or move out of sight. I think part of our soul’s development in mortal life is forming object permanence with God, coming to know and remind ourselves that He is loving and good and has a plan—even when we can’t see Him.

This trust isn’t blind faith. God can help reassure us and provide evidence of His love through tender mercies, which Elder David A. Bednar has described as “the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2. Be Intentional about Connection

In long-distance relationships, it’s important to prioritize creative ways to connect. Consistency and presence are key, and it’s crucial to find a cadence that works for you and the other person—often through a combination of spontaneous and scheduled times to talk.

Since you can’t be together in person, you can help bring the other person into your life by sharing small details about your day and being honest with them about how you’re doing and feeling.

The same is true in our relationships with God. We can share with Him what’s on our minds and hearts—He really cares! Through tools like daily prayer and scripture study, church and temple attendance, and stillness and meditation, we can also show that we care about connecting with Him.

I find it helpful to remember that we don’t need an all-or-nothing approach—we can do our best to intentionally connect with God, knowing that some days will be better than others. It’s comforting to recognize that God is always ready to receive my attempts at connection, and He will also draw closer to me as I put in effort (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:63).

3. Prioritize Individual Growth

One of the best tips I’ve heard for long-distance relationships is to take full responsibility for your personal development and well-being. As you focus on growing as individuals while you’re apart, you can ultimately strengthen your relationship when you come back together.

It can be tempting to place stress from other areas of your life onto your relationship or even blame your relationship for these difficulties when it’s not actually the root of the problem. But self-care in all forms—physical, emotional, and spiritual—can help you feel your best and stay open to connection.

This doesn’t mean that the person you’re dating can’t support you in your personal development and challenges, but you should remember to be completely accountable for your role in the relationship and what you can control. This means aiming for a healthy amount of interdependence rather than codependence or extreme self-reliance.

Learning about this principle has also been pivotal in my relationship with God. I simply can’t feel the Spirit when I don’t take care of my physical and emotional health, so I consider self-care a spiritual priority. I’ve also learned that it’s important for me to take an active role in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Rather than depending on Him to guide every step or feeling like I have to do everything on my own, I can seek to use my agency wisely and consult with Him about whether I’m taking the right direction (see Doctrine and Covenants 9:8).

I love the way that the Bible Dictionary describes building an interdependence with God through prayer:

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them.”

Understanding this truth can help us recognize we’re not passive participants in our relationships with God and develop realistic expectations around receiving support and answers to our prayers. As we grow as individuals, we improve our ability to connect with Him.

4. Find Strength in All Relationships

In any human relationship, it’s imperative to nurture friendships outside the relationship since one person can’t fulfill all your needs. Having a strong support system is especially helpful when you live far away from the person you’re dating. Being able to lean on friends and family can relieve any distance-related pressure or angst and allow you to show up as your best self in the relationship.

I’ve also found that my friendships improve my long-distance relationship by helping me understand how to empathize with different perspectives and practice skills like communication, vulnerability, assertiveness, and honesty.

Similarly, one way that I feel closer to God is by recognizing His attributes in other people and finding strength in my human relationships. I come to know my Heavenly Father better and feel His love as I serve His children and allow them to support me as well. As Richard T. Osguthorpe wrote in his book Filled with His Love:

“When we allow our relationship with God to influence all of our actions, both the giver and the receiver are blessed by divine mercy and grace. The giver’s and receiver’s attachment to God grows stronger as they give and receive divine love to one another. As the attachment with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ becomes stronger, we will be more able to help others strengthen their own attachments.”

God gives us the amazing opportunity to be part of the process of helping others come to know Him better. And as we serve them, we build our relationship with Him and each other as well.

5. Have an End in Sight

In a long-distance relationship, it’s helpful to know when you’ll be together again—whether you’re planning your next visit or creating a general timeline for when you’ll move to the same location. This gives more purpose to your time apart and helps the relationship grow.

In the Book of Mormon, we learn that “this life is the time for [us] to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32). Having this perspective helps us find meaning in our mortal lives. We shouldn’t wait until we’re reunited with our Father in Heaven; we should actively be growing and learning during our mortal life to get ready for that moment.

As President Russell M. Nelson has taught, “Now is the time to align our goals with God’s goals. … We are to emulate the example of the Lord, to love as He did, to pray as He did, and to endure to the end as He did.”

For me, a song that beautifully captures what our reunion with God will feel like after we have endured to the end is “Homeward Bound,” composed by Marta Keen Thompson. The final verse reads:

“If you find it’s me you’re missing, if you’re hoping I’ll return
To your thoughts I’ll soon be list’ning, in the road I’ll stop and turn

Then the wind will set me racing as my journey nears its end
And the path I’ll be retracing when I’m homeward bound again”

I love this image of running into my Heavenly Father’s embrace, with the wind “[setting] me racing,” after He has missed me and hoped for my return. This end goal makes me want to live my life in a way that will allow me to recognize His love and feel closer to Him. I believe that my efforts will strengthen our relationship while we are apart, making the homecoming even more precious and rewarding.

Anticipating the future while living in and learning from the present is a delicate balance, but it can help provide greater meaning to both moments in time. Painful goodbyes in long-distance relationships make the reunions even more joyful.

The knowledge we gain now will help us appreciate and understand our relationship with God better. As Paul writes, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

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