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Abstract

In four studies, we documented the symbolic meanings of the progression of contraceptive use in close relationships. In Study 1A, participants perceived a couple in which one partner suggests changing contraceptive method from condoms to the pill (a normative transition script) as having a more positive relationship than a couple in which one partner suggests changing from the pill to condoms (a counternormative transition script). In Study 1B, participants believed that couples who followed a counternormative transition script had higher likelihood of infidelity/STDs and a lower degree of closeness than couples who followed a normative transition script. In Study 2A, the association of counternormative transition with perceptions of greater infidelity and lower closeness was demonstrated among a group of college students imagining their own relationship partners suggesting the transition. In Study 2B, participants who imagined that their partner suggested a counternormative transition reported more negative emotions than did participants who imagined that their partner suggested a normative transition. These findings suggest that the symbolic meaning of condoms and birth control pills may contribute to the relative lack of safer sex behaviors in close relationships.