WHEN asked “am I happily married,” my unquestioning response is yes. But why? Before I was married, I definitely felt a need for love, something deep, and someone to whom I could completely open up without being afraid of rejection. There was also a need to give to someone who needed what I was giving, and to be received with appreciation.

“Falling in love,” and the depth of friendship and love which developed between my husband and I, fulfilled/is fulfilling these needs. I found a friend/lover with whom I could communicate. We have grown together. Many times situations have developed which were too sensitive to be dealt with openly, at the time. The happiness has developed because we are able to go back to sensitive areas and rework our feelings to regain honesty.

The first year was rough. We had to relearn our traditional responses to people, learn to be secure and trust in this security, thus erasing the need for deception. Harsh words and hostilities arose, mostly from our competition with each other. In a lack of complete trust, one seeks to dominate to insure security.

Our relationship today is not conflict free. Our conflicts are usually constructive ones, resolving problems, instead of efforts to manipulate. I cannot say that one of us is the dominant partner. We have grown together and now nearly love the other as much as we love ourselves. Such a relationship leaves one very vulnerable. There are no barriers to protect. My barriers (and they were many) were exchanged for a oneness with my husband which is far more satisfying than protective walls.

I feel complete. Instead of taking from my “self” this love has added to me. I feel strong. In my personal relationships with other people I feel less threatened, less “put on” because of the security in myself marriage has given me.

Perhaps the most important thing in a marriage is not falling in love. Far more important is the ability to build an open friendship. You can be enemies with someone you love; too many people don’t really like their mates — they are in love, but they don’t share a bond of friendship. What is being happily married? It’s so hard to say. Mostly, it’s not playing games with each other. Cat and mouse affairs are not for people. We’re gentle with each other; we know the inner soul of each other better than anyone else in the world does and we like what we see.

The magic passion of new love is not meant to last forever. Loving friendship is eternal.