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Intimacy in Long-Distance Relationships over Video Chat

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Many couples live a portion of their lives being separated from each other as part of a long-distance relationship (LDR). This includes a large number of dating college students as well as couples who are geographically-separated because of situational demands such as work. We conducted interviews with individuals in LDRs to understand how they make use of video chat systems to maintain their relationships. In particular, we have investigated how couples use video to “hang out” together and engage in activities over extended periods of time. Our results show that regardless of the relationship situation, video affords a unique opportunity for couples to share presence over distance, which in turn provides intimacy and reduced idealization. While beneficial, couples still face challenges in using video, including contextual (e.g., location of partners, time zone differences), technical (e.g., mobility, audio and video quality, networking), and personal (e.g., a lack of true physicality needed by most in order to support intimate sexual acts) challenges.
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