Fairy tales sometimes end with the words "And they lived happily ever after." That's how you know it's a fairy tale. Real life isn't like that. Princes kill dragons, swim moats, defeat wizards and witches, and generally behave like superheroes to save their princesses. Isn't that true love? Not in my house.

In my house, my true love mows the lawn, washes the cars, cleans the bathrooms, rubs my tired feet, and takes out the garbage. Not as romantic as slaying dragons, right? Wrong. Each of those actions shows true love.

True love. Hmmm. Let's think about it for a few minutes. Isn't that what all parents have for their children? No. Some parents abuse and ignore their children. That's not true love.

Isn't true love what all spouses have for each other? No. Some spouses ridicule or cheat on each other. That's not true love.

I'm going to go way out on a limb here and attempt to define "true love."

First and foremost, true love involves sacrifice. If someone is willing to do something for another person even if he's not crazy about doing it, then it's true love. Whenever you put another human being ahead of yourself, you are showing great affection for them.

Take, for instance, a parent who doesn't have much money. If one of his children needs sneakers but the parent wants a new fishing rod, which item do you think a loving parent would buy? Or, if your wife has a job where she stands all day and comes home with sore feet (stinky, too) and you volunteer to rub them, the motivating factor must be love.

Another ingredient of true love is respect. No one can love someone if rude, crude and discourteous remarks are made constantly about your supposed loved one. Sometimes when men or women get together with their same-sex friends, they have a tendency to "cut down" their mate. I once overheard a husband call his wife a "fat cow." Boy, that's true love for sure.

In addition to sacrifice and respect, a loving relationship requires the ability to forgive and the ability to say, "I'm sorry." No one is perfect. Well, at least no one is perfect all of the time. Give each other a break. People who expect flawless behavior from loved ones had better be prepared for disappointment.

I know a young woman who is engaged for the fifth time. She keeps searching for that Prince Charming on a white horse. After two failed marriages and two broken engagements, she is still seeking a perfect mate. I have a feeling that her search will continue indefinitely.

Of course, there are other important ingredients in true love. However, these three – sacrifice, respect, and the willingness to forgive- form the basis for love to flourish. Without them, the princess might as well marry the dragon.

(IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANOTHER EDUCATION AND FAMILY TOPIC WITH DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: jsmith798@sc.rr.com [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.)