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How feelings of joy and gratitude can co-exist with pain and anxiety


Having conflicting emotions can be overwhelming and confusing.

How can anger and joy, for example, exist in the same space?

It’s a common experience though, to juggle two sets – if not more – of emotion at once.

While it might feel like your brain is messy, it’s a very ‘normal’ thing to experience – and it can tell us more about the nuances and complexities of our lives.

Rarely, things are back and white.

Dora Kamau, a mindfulness meditation teacher for the Headspace app, is keen to spread this message and help people find greater ease in conflicting emotions.

Speaking to Metro.co.uk, Dora says: ‘Generally speaking, most emotions last for 90 seconds – they come in waves and are transient.

‘One moment we may be experiencing something painful and the next moment, we may be laughing and experiencing a sense of joy.

‘How we can recognise joy is by allowing those feelings to come and go.’

So how to you allow them to do that?

She answers: ‘Giving ourselves full permission to feel how it is we’re feeling in the moment, without attaching a story or identifying with what we’re feeling.

‘What makes emotions last long is rumination, our fixation and overthinking spent on what we’re experiencing in the moment.’

Creating space for positive and negative feelings

The mind has a natural bias towards negative emotions, so we’re able to spot and identify states of pain, anger or grief much easier than we can joy and happiness.

‘This is where mindfulness can be powerful by shining a light on how we’re feeling and helping us to recognise joy amidst the anger,’ Dora adds.

Rather than view a negative emotion as ‘bad’, mindfulness teaches us to allow the emotion in and observe or feel it without judgement.

When we assign labels such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, we can become stuck.

It’s much easier to embrace moments of gratitude – while also feeling unhappy about an aspect of our lives – when we can step into acceptance, according to Dora.

‘When we allow ourselves something, we’re giving ourselves permission and we’re opening ourselves up to possibility,’ she says.

‘When it comes to allowing ourselves to experience happiness while in a state of upset, we’re giving ourselves the permission to feel what we’re feeling and honouring what we’re feeling as well.

‘When we limit our emotional expression, this can create more resistance and tension in the mind and body, which can actually prolong that state of upset.

‘Regardless of the emotions, it’s important that we allow ourselves to feel and process our emotions.’

We might feel anxious about a situation, for example, but also find pleasure in aspects of it.

The pleasure doesn’t discredit the adversity you’re experiencing, but the anxiety doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to feel moments of joy.

Dora says: ‘It’s okay to let in those feelings that may feel contradictory, but can help us move through heavier and denser emotions.

‘As human beings experiencing many mixed emotions at once is quite normal.’

Tips for allowing conflicting emotions to co-exist:

Establish a routine of meditation and switching off from your phone. Pick the same time or same place when you meditate. You can even book time in your calendar so that people can’t schedule anything over this dedicated period. Start with two to three times a week, for five minutes each time and you can always build on this.

Mindfully walking around your house, garden, or your local area can prevent the mind from being distracted from stressful thoughts by allowing you to focus on the rhythm of the gait, just like a sitting meditation can enable you to focus on the breath.
Self-compassion can also allow us to feel happiness while also feeling sadness. Reminding ourselves that we are worthy and deserving of feeling joy even while upset.

If you find yourself experiencing moments of joy while also grieving, try holding both experiences instead of choosing one or the other. You can validate what you’re experiencing by placing a hand on your heart, taking a few deep breaths and reminding yourself that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling.

Reference: Metro: Tanyel Mustafa

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Love drugs could be the cure for failing marriages

Love drugs could be the cure for failing marriages

“Love drugs” could soon be used to help save failing marriages, according to an Oxford University academic.

Provided by The Telegraph Love drugs
Love is something humans do uniquely well as a species, underpinned by a battery of chemicals in our brain. Scientists have yet to master the art of bottling liquid love, but Dr Anna Machin, an evolutionary anthropologist at Oxford University, believes that feat is fast approaching.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, the author of Why We Love: The New Science Behind Our Closest Relationships, discussed the four key chemicals in the human brain behind the mechanics of love: oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine and beta endorphin.

A cocktail of these potent molecules is released when a person is in love, or falling in love, and this changes our thoughts, behaviour and emotions.

Oxytocin is known as the “cuddle” hormone and reduces inhibitions, dopamine is our “reward” hormone which makes us feel good, serotonin is what makes us obsess over another person, and beta endorphin is an opiate that makes us addicted, literally, to an individual.

These four chemicals are responsible for love, which itself evolved as a mechanism to help people raise children.

Love evolved as form of ‘biological bribery’
Evolutionarily, Dr Minchin said, women want childcare, while men want sex. This “unequal currency” was offset by the evolution of love as a form of “biological bribery”.

She believes enough is now known about brain chemistry that certain chemicals could be prescribed to “enhance your abilities to find love or to increase the possibility that you will stay in love when it is getting a bit tricky”.

“One of the frontiers of love research commercially – because can you imagine how much money you would make – is in exploring possible love drugs.

“There’s lots of ethical questions about love drugs, that love drugs are certainly on the horizon. And there is certainly research going into them.”

Speaking after her talk, Dr Machin added: “Love drugs used in couples’ therapy could be available within three to five years.”

These chemicals are likely to be based on the four neurotransmitters, like pure oxytocin, or a drug which can elicit greater production of one of them, like MDMA, also known as ecstasy.
“Oxytocin is very popular with commercial companies right now as it could help people become more confident when dating and help them fall in love,” she added.

“Oxytocin could be available within a decade for people to squirt up their nose before they go out on a Saturday night, at the same time as having a glass of prosecco.

“MDMA, for people who go clubbing, makes them feel like they love everyone else in the room.

“But users also have a surge in empathy, so it could be used to help those struggling in their marriage.

“There are more ethical questions surrounding MDMA, so that is likely to take longer.”

David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College, agreed that oxytocin and serotonin were likely involved in love but is less convinced by dopamine and beta endorphin’s roles. However, he does concur that pharmaceutical love aids, such as MDMA, may be available soon.

“MDMA was widely used in the 1970s by couples counsellors in the US to help people put their marriages back together – with anecdotal good outcomes.”

Chemicals to blame for tough break-ups
Dr Machin also explained why some people take break-ups harder than others, with beta endorphin, the lesser-known of the four neurochemicals, to blame.

“Beta endorphin is an opiate. It is produced by your body and, just like heroin, it is addictive,” she said.

And when the source of the drug, a loved one, disappears, the person goes cold turkey and physically struggles at the loss of the chemical.

“That’s actually the reason why when you get dumped it feels awful because you are going into opiate withdrawal,” she said.

“Obviously, if you’re dumped, you don’t get a slow withdrawal and that is why it is so unbelievably physiologically and psychologically painful when a relationship ends in that way.

“You go from existing at quite a nice high level of all these lovely neuro chemicals and suddenly it is gone, you’ve gone full cold turkey, and all those lovely chemicals disappear and that’s why being dumped is so physiologically painful, actually painful, it can feel like your heart is breaking.”

Dr Machin added that around one in 50 people also possess a particular gene which makes them more sensitive to this process, and for them being dumped is much more hurtful.

“Some poor people who carry a version of the new opioid receptor gene, feel social rejection much, much more powerfully than the rest of us. When they get dumped it is like a million times more painful than the rest of us.”

Reference: The Telegraph: Joe Pinkstone

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What’s your love language after 60? Relationship specialist shares exercise to find out

What’s your love language after 60? Relationship specialist shares exercise to find out
Lohani Noor is a psychotherapist who specialises in sex and relationships.

She spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk about what each love language means – and how you can discover your own.

Lohani told Express.co.uk that as people go through different stages of their lives, they may require different things from their partners.

“As we grow and age, we may well find that how we experience ourselves and the world around us changes as does how we want to be validated.

“In your 20s receiving affirmation through physical touch may be the most important demonstration of love, however this may change during your 30s and 40s when children come along to acts of service and again in your 50s and 60s to spending quality time together.

“Our changing sense of ourselves directly impacts how we give and receive love. Using the love languages exercise will help couples navigate their changing needs over the years.”

She continued:”Gary Chapman, the author of The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, defines five distinct ways in which people demonstrate love to one another.

Giving and receiving words of affirmation (compliments) – Spending quality time together – Giving and receiving gifts – Acts of service – Physical touch.”

Perhaps you feel that you aren’t connecting with your partner at the moment, or you don’t know how best to communicate your feelings.

Lohani’s technique to discovering your love language might just be the trick.

“I do a simple exercise with couples that helps them understand their own and their partner’s love languages.

“Sometimes one or both partners are working very hard to show the other person that they love them but their words and actions aren’t recognised, as they are not on their partner’s love language radar.”

This practical exercise hopes to make the discussion around relationship needs much easier.

“I ask both members of the couple to create three columns each.

“In the second column they are to list all the ways in which they think that their partner shows or tells them that they love them.

She continued: “This exercise not only helps people zone into their partners more it also helps them to receive the love that is being offered.

“I ask couples to commit to a few of the ways in which their partner wishes to have love demonstrated to them, in column three.

“Even if you don’t feel the love vibe from doing the thing, be it sending text messages or taking out the bins, be mindful that your partner has expressly informed you that that specific action speaks of love to them.”

This exercise is all about selflessly listening to what the other person needs.

And for those that are sceptical of the exercise, what are the benefits of it?

“As such they are much more likely to be emotionally and sexually available to you if you action their love language desires.

“Why would you not want to…?”

Lohani outlined a few ways of showing each love language for some inspiration.

Love languages: Gift giving© Getty Love languages: Gift giving – Words of Affirmation – Telling them how wonderful they are and how grateful you are for them –

Congratulating them on milestones and achievements – no matter how big or small – Leaving a voice note to wish them a nice day – Remembering their big days at work and – wishing them well.

Popping a surprise card in their suitcase or hand luggage if they are going away so they will find it whilst on their travels

Quality Time

Having breakfast together before heading off to work – Going for a walk together – Having a date night away from friend, family, work and children –

Maintain eye contact when talking – Setting time aside in the evening to catch up on the day

Receiving gifts

Buying them their favourite sweet or chocolate – Gifting them something that reflects their interests – Picking up heartfelt souvenirs for them on your travels

Giving random gifts just because

Acts of service

Getting their car washed – Doing household tasks they may usually do, like laundry or ironing – Picking up dry cleaning – Filling the car up with petrol – Making them a packed lunch for work.

Physical touch

Cuddling while watching TV – Kissing hello and goodbye – Giving public displays of affection – treating them to a back rub – Holding hands on a walk.

Reference: Daily Express: Anna Barry

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Four eerie Nostradamus predictions for 2022 including the invasion of France to deadly AI

Michel de Nostradame, often simply known to Nostradamus, was a French astrologer, occultist and doctor who wrote a number of grim predictions about the future in his 1555 book Les Propheties.

Although his predictions were often vague, based on astrological observations, many believe that of his 942 forecasts many have come true.

From foreseeing the horrors of the Second World War to predicting the French Revolution and the Great Fire of London, the accuracy of Nostradamus’s eerie prophecies means people continue to heed his writings hundreds of years on.

The way his accounts of the future are written, a lot of what he predicts can be applied to several different scenarios.

Nostradamus was a man shrouded in mystery

It has been claimed that he knew that John F Kennedy would be assassinated and about the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.

As a doctor in the time of plague, famine and war, Nostradamus was exposed to the most horrifying and apocalyptic conditions, even losing his first wife and two children to the plague.

Many have interpreted his macabre writing as predictions of doomsday events including a zombie apocalypse, an asteroid hitting the Earth and a deadly solar storm.

Indeed, one of Nostradamus’s prophecies almost came true this year when he referred to “Fire do I see that from the sky shall fall”.

In April of this year, the Earth did have a near-miss with the Asteroid 2021GW4, which came within 12,324 miles of the surface of Earth as its closest point of approach, the Mirror reports.

In April of this year, the Earth did have a near-miss with the Asteroid 2021GW4, which came within 12,324 miles of the surface of Earth as its closest point of approach, the Mirror reports.

France has faced invasion many times since Nostradamus made his prediction
The Print Collector/Getty Images France has faced invasion many times since Nostradamus made his prediction

In April of this year, the Earth did have a near-miss with the Asteroid 2021GW4, which came within 12,324 miles of the surface of Earth as its closest point of approach, the Mirror reports.

This has been proved correct a few times over the centuries, with Russian, Prussian and Austrian troops swarming Paris after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, the Prussians invading France’s Alsace-Lorraine region in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and of course the Nazi invasion in World War II.

His prediction goes as such: However, the following prediction is speculated to be referring to the spring of 2022:

“Blue-head shall white-head

harm in such degree,

As France’s good to both shall e’er amount.”

The highly vague predictions could be referring to World War III or France’s qualification for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Could Nostradamus have predicted rising sea levels?
Rising Sea Levels

Global Warming

Nostradamus was apparently ahead of many people today in terms of understanding the dangers of rising global temperatures.

The 1555 prediction reads:

“Like the sun the head shall sear the shining sea:

The Black Sea’s living fish shall all but boil.

When Rhodes and Genoa

Half-starved shall be

The local folk to cut them up shall toil.”

With coral reefs being bleached by rising ocean temperatures, crop cycles being affected by unseasonal heatwaves and supply chains disrupted, this prediction does feel far from the truth.

Inflation, Starvation and Cannibalism

If it wasn’t a bleak enough picture, Nostradamus predicted rising food costs causing widespread hunger and even cannibalism:

“No abbots, monks, no novices to learn;

Honey shall cost far more than candle-wax”

“So high the price of wheat,

That man is stirred

His fellow man to eat in his despair”

Empty shelves and increasing food prices have become a part of daily life in the past year but it’s all we can hope that no one will be required to take more desperate measures.

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

On a slightly lighter note, Nostradamus may have predicted the plot of Terminator.

He wrote:

“The Moon in the full of night over the high mountain,

The new sage with a lone brain sees it:

By his disciples invited to be immortal,

Eyes to the south. Hands in bosoms, bodies in the fire.”

Man’s creation of robots may be both a help and a hindrance.

His words could be interpreted as artificial intelligence helping humans reach immortality or a violent end.

Reference: My London: Rory Bennett:

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Blue Moon: Why August’s Moon will be unlike any other this year – and what it actually means

The night sky is about to see something so rare that it’s best known as a saying: the fabled Blue Moon.

The Moon won’t look any bluer than usual, and in fact nothing will happen to the Moon itself. And it is not even a Blue Moon in the way the phrase has come to be used recently.

Instead, it is the original meaning of Blue Moon – a “true” Blue Moon – that gave rise to the saying.

The original Blue Moon occurred when a season has four full Moons in it, rather than the traditional three. When that happens, it is the third one that takes the name the Blue Moon, as will happen this August.

That was the description given in the Maine Farmers’ Almanac, which is often used as the source for the names used traditionally for the Moons in the US.

Among other things, referring to the Moon in this way helps keep the traditional way of referring to specific Moons – the last of the season can keep its name as the “late” Moon, for instance. But extra Moons can cause all sorts of problems besides, including in the calculation of the date of church festivals, which may have given rise to the popularity of the phrase.

Such an event happens roughly every 2.7 years. The last one is in February 2019, and after this one there will not be another until August 2024.

But this is not how most people use the phrase today. The more modern definition refers to a time when one particular month has two full Moons within it.

The confusion has been traced back to a mistake made in 1946, when a contributor to Sky & Telescope misread that original description and made reference to the twice-in-a-month kind of Blue Moon. The magazine recognised its mistake in 1999, in another article, but it was too late, and the newer definition has mostly stuck around.

The next chance to see a Blue Moon by the more modern definition will come in August 2023.

More often than not, the phrase Blue Moon is not used to refer to either kind of Blue Moon, or a literal Blue Moon. It is often used in songs with the aim of recalling the sense of the word used in the blues, of loneliness or sadness.

The Moon only turns the actual colour of blue very rarely indeed. Occasionally, the eruption of volcano or large fires can put smoke in the sky that changes its colour.

Reference: Independent: Andrew Griffin : Fri, 20 August 2021

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‘World’s biggest sapphire stone’ worth £72m accidentally found by workmen

Workmen digging a well in a man’s back garden in Sri Lanka have accidentally unearthed what is believed to be the world’s largest cluster of sapphire.

The incredible stone has been valued at an eye-watering £72million as it weighs a staggering 510 kilograms and has the equivalent of 2.5 million carats.

The cluster, which has been named the “Serendipity Sapphire”, was found in the home of gem trader Mr Gamage.

While the pale blue stone is bound to attract the attention of private investors and museums, it officially belongs to Mr Gamage as it was found at his property in Ratnapura, the gem capital of the South Asian country.

a close up of a hand holding a glass with a blue background: Rocks that fell from the stone while it was being cleaned have been found to high value sapphire stars
 Rocks that fell from the stone while it was being cleaned have been found to high value sapphire stars

Mr Gamage said the stone was found by workers who alerted him to the extraordinary discovery.

“The person who was digging the well alerted us about some rare stones. Later we stumbled upon this huge specimen,”  Mr Gamage told the BBC

Mr Gamage, who doesn’t want to disclose his address for safety reasons, went on to describe how some rocks fell off the cluster during the cleaning process and were found to be high quality sapphire stars, the BBC reports.

The stone had been found in 2020 but it took months to clean it from the mud and for experts to assess and certify it as sapphire.

The rock, which has now reportedly been transferred to a safe at the Bank of Ceylon, will have to be assessed by international experts before it can be safely sold to anyone interested.

“I have never seen such a large specimen before. This was probably formed around 400 million years ago,” Dr Gamini Zoysa, a renowned gemmologist told the news outlet.

World’s largest Sapphire

“It is a special star sapphire specimen, probably the biggest in the world.”

Sri Lanka is renown around the world for its export of sapphires and other precious stones used for jewellery.

Here in the UK, the precious rock is known as a ring made of blue sapphire famously belonged to Princess Diana before it passed on to the Duchess of Cambridge.

Prince William gave Kate Middleton the ring, estimated to be worth £300,000, as an engagement gift, after a “selfless” Harry gave it up so his brother’s future wife could have it.

Reference: Mirror: Claire Gilbody-Dickerson

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Buck Moon: Why tonight’s full Moon has such an unusual name

The full “Buck Moon” is set to rise in the sky.

But the name doesn’t refer to anything special about the Moon itself. Instead, it is the name it takes whenever the full moon arrives in July.

As such, there won’t be anything notable to see about the Moon when it is visible in the sky, beyond all the usual view that comes with any full moon. Unlike a super moon, or a lunar eclipse, or similar celestial sights, the Moon will look the same as normal.

themoon.jpg

(As noted by some US news organisations, however, the Moon could look a little red or orange – but because of the wildfires that are burning across the west of the country, rather than any astronomical reason.)

The name Buck Moon is supposedly Native American in origin, and comes from the fact that it is around now when buck deer begin to sprout antlers from their foreheads. The Maine Farmer’s Almanac is the source of many of the names for the Moon that have become popular, which run from the Old Moon in January to the Cold Moon in December.

It is also known under a variety of different names. In Europe, it is sometimes called the Hay Moon because it comes at the time it is harvested, or the Mead Moon; those names are sometimes applied to the Moon in June too, however.

It is also the Guru Full Moon, or Guru Purnima, for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. As noted by Nasa, that is celebrated as a “time for clearing the mind and honoring the guru or spiritual master”.

And for Theravada Buddhists, the Moon is known as Asalha Puha, Dharma Day or Esala Poya. Its arrival marks an important festival that celebrates the Buddha’s first sermon.

While this year has seen a run of supermoons, there won’t be another one for almost a year – the next one will occur on 14 June, 2022.

Reference: Independent: Andrew Griffin 

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‘I fell in love with a psychopath con man who stole my £850,000 life savings’

It was coming up to closing time in the clothes shop where I worked, when in walked a handsome stranger. That jacket in the window,” he inquired, brown eyes twinkling. “Do you have it in my size?” Impeccably groomed, wearing a crisp white shirt with no tie, a suit and designer glasses, he exuded confidence. I loved meeting new people. After being made redundant from my pharmaceuticals job, I sold up and moved from Buckinghamshire to the Cotswolds town of Tetbury.

My two daughters, Lara and Emma, had flown the nest and, at 54, I was loving my independence following my divorce nine years earlier. As we chatted, Mark Conway – as he introduced himself – held my gaze and smiled. The atmosphere felt electric. So when my friend Uma popped in to tell me about a house she thought I should buy, I wished she’d leave so I could talk more to this charismatic Mark, who said he was 46 and divorced. Now I wish now I had closed the shop early and never met him.

Instead, after Uma had gone, I told Mark I’d sold my own place and was renting a cottage while looking to buy. Later, I realised this signalled how much cash I had at my fingertips.

a person standing in front of a building: Carolyn Woods

He asked for my mobile number and the next evening we sipped champagne at a local hotel. After Eton and Oxford, Mark said he was now a tax exile working for a Swiss bank. When he said he’d flown back from Geneva that evening just to see me I was flattered.

His lifestyle sounded so luxurious. He liked only “the best” and happily paid for it. The first time we made love, two days after we met, Mark pulled himself away from me. “I’m falling in love with you,” he murmured. “This is insane.” Soon, we were calling each other by the pet name “Bubba”. “You are so beautiful,” he’d text. One evening, four days after we met, he pulled up outside a lovely empty house with electric gates.

He told me he was thinking of renting it for us. My jaw dropped. “We’re going to live together. It’s what we both want,” he said. But Mark was always flying off somewhere. He revealed that his banking job was actually a cover for his work with MI6.

This made sense. He’d “let slip” how he flew his own plane and spoke seven languages. He explained that secret agents weren’t supposed to have relationships and it would take him 18 months to get out of his MI6 contract. Would I wait for him? Hook, line and sinker, I’d fallen for him, and said I would.

Robert Jarni wearing a suit and tie: Mark Acklom had been a fraudster since he was a teenager

Lies and spies

Mark went to great lengths to seem like a spy. He asked his driver to pull into a side street next to the MI6 building in Vauxhall, London. “Wait for me here,” he instructed, disappearing inside. He “bought” me a Volvo XC60 SUV – later I would discover it was leased – and gave me a new iPhone and laptop. Then Mark announced he wanted to buy a Grade I-listed house set in stunning grounds on the outskirts of Bath.

I was thrilled, although he wouldn’t let me visit until the renovations were complete. “I want it to be a surprise for you, Bubba,” he grinned. But less than a month after I’d met him I overheard him discussing a cash-flow problem regarding the contractors. Since I had money sitting in my bank account, I offered him the £26,000 he mentioned. It was the first of 70 transfers over the next few months. I wasn’t thinking straight. That’s what falling in love does to you.

His lies became more elaborate. He told me he knew Vladimir Putin and Hillary Clinton, and once interrupted our lovemaking to take a call he said was from the King of Spain. He’d pick me up for dates in a helicopter and everything was ridiculously expensive. At Harrods food hall he picked up a whole ham costing £1,500. Yet whenever we went to pay, he just looked straight at me and I produced my bankcard.

Mark promised me a fairy-tale wedding and to repay me once the cash-flow problem had been sorted. I never doubted him. Another time, in August 2012, Mark phoned. “Fancy going flying, Bubba?” He took me to see “his” collection of classic aircraft in Gloucestershire. It looked so romantic, but I was surprised to learn that I would be flown by Mark’s business associate, James Miller, even though Mark claimed to be an experienced pilot himself.

How could I doubt that he would one day pay back my money when impromptu treats like this were possible?

Desperate and depressed

One night, just as I was watching Homeland – a TV show I had become addicted to since Mark’s confession that he worked for MI6 – he suddenly appeared dressed in full desert combat gear. “Darling, I had to see you,” he said. “I’ve left a group of men I’m training in Syria.” Because I couldn’t talk to anyone about his work, I just became increasingly isolated.

Spending all my time alone, waiting to hear from him, I lost my confidence and slid into depression. Then that autumn, Mark told me he had a brain tumour and needed an urgent operation abroad. I was worried sick. Why was everything going so wrong? All the bills were in my name, but I couldn’t hassle Mark to give me any money when he was so sick. I ended up moving out of the house and relying on friends to put me up.

I didn’t want to live. I spent hours on the internet researching how I could commit suicide. But part of me clung to the hope that I was overreacting, and that my new life with Mark would be wonderful. By April 2013 there was still no money. Mark blamed his lawyers. He rang me every day, telling me he hoped we’d be together soon.

I tried to end the relationship, but he guilted and gaslighted me into staying with him. By June I’d had enough. In desperation, I rang James Miller – the plane pilot. I barely knew him but hoped for some reassurance. Instead, he dropped a bombshell. James said his business had been destroyed by Mark, a serial fraudster whose real surname was Acklom.

He’d made headlines in 1991 when, aged 16, he’d stolen his father’s credit card, flown to Paris by private jet and treated his friends to champagne. I remembered reading about it. He’d then embarked on a criminal career and had been jailed for fraud in the UK and Spain.

Also, he was married with two young children, one of whom he’d introduced to me as his “niece”. Plus, he wasn’t 46, only 38. Lie after lie – I felt sick I’d slept with him. And ashamed and horribly embarrassed I’d fallen for his charm and James Bond story.

That night, I went to my daughter Lara’s flat in London, where my younger daughter Emma joined us. I told them everything, trying to absorb it all. Lying on Lara’s sofa, I just wanted to die. “That f*****g b*****d!” Next morning, Mark rang. “Baby, I love you so much,” he said. “Just give me my money,” I replied. The line went dead and I never heard from Mark Acklom ever again.

I went to the police as soon as I could, but it took six years to bring Mark to justice in a British courtroom. With his name on the list of the UK’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, he was finally arrested in Switzerland and extradited back to the UK in February 2019. That August he appeared in court, pleading guilty to five charges of fraud. He was sentenced to five years and eight months.

I’ve since realised he is a psychopath – without remorse, guilt or empathy. I lost every penny of my £850,000. The one good thing was meeting James – we got together at the end of 2013  and now rent a home in Scotland. Our match was made in hell, but we have each other. Mark ruined both our lives, but we laugh about the audacious lies. What else can you do?

I always dreamed of writing a book. This is one story I could never have made up. Sleeping With A Psychopath by Carolyn Woods (HarperCollins £8.99) is out now

Reference: Mirror: Carolyn Woods (talking to Susanna Galton)  11 hrs ago

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Willow Smith has revealed she is polyamorous – so what is polyamory?

Willow Smith has announced that she is polyamorous.

Speaking on Red Table Talk, a chat show hosted by her mother and grandmother, the 20-year-old musician said she would be open to having more than one partner, and said the approach helps people respect each other’s needs in relationships.

She said: “With polyamory I feel like the main foundation is the freedom to be able to create a relationship style that works for you and not just (to be) stepping into monogamy because that’s what everyone around you says is the right thing to do. So I was like, how can I structure the way that I approach relationships with that in mind?

She continued: “Let’s say you haven’t always been the person wanting sex all the time, but your partner is,” she added. “Are you going to be the person to say, ‘Just because I don’t have these needs, you can’t have them either?’”

But what actually is polyamory? And what does it involve? We’ve broken it down into four key points…

But what is polyamory?

Polyamory is the concept of having more than one sexual or romantic relationship at the same time – with the informed consent of all partners involved.

The term comes from the Greek word “poly” – meaning many, and the Latin “amor” – love.

What does it involve?

The term acts as an umbrella for any non-monogamous relationship.

It can involve someone having multiple partners who are not connected; being in a group of people who date (like a throuple); or having an open hierarchical relationship in which there is a primary couple who are closest to each other, but are allowed to form emotional or sexual bonds with other people.

That the label is not just about sex is key. Dedeker Winston, author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory, told Glamour: “There are a lot of people in the polyamorous community who identify as (asexual), while Willow Smith said she has less sex than her friends.

Does it have its own symbol and day of recognition?

A polyamory pride flag was designed by Jim Evans in 1995. It has three horizontal stripes – blue, red and black – and a pi symbol in the centre.

The pi sign was chosen because it has infinite decimal places, a play on polyamorous people having “infinite” partners, while the colours chosen have various meanings including love and passion and openness among all partners.

The pi sign was chosen because it has infinite decimal places, a play on polyamorous people having “infinite” partners, while the colours chosen have various meanings including love and passion and openness among all partners.

In Canada, November 23 is National Polyamory Day, marking a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that confirmed the legality of polyamorous relationships.

Meanwhile, in the UK PolyDay is a one-day convention that has been held since 2006 to celebrate polyamory.

Which other celebrities are polyamorous?

Willow Smith is not the only celebrity to open up about this sexual identity. Big Little Lies actress Shailene Woodley said she has been in an open relationship, as has Megan Fox and YouTubers Jake Paul and Tana Mongeau.

There have been rumours that Willow Smith’s parents, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are also in an open relationship, with the latter once posting on social media: “Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship…this means we have a GROWN one.”

And this is not something limited to celebrity bubbles.

Nearly a third of American millennials surveyed in a 2020 YouGov poll said that their ideal relationship was non-monogamous to some degree.

 Reference: Indy 100: Kate Plummer 1 day ago

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‘Sex in later life is the last relationship taboo – and it’s time we talked about it ‘

Cast your mind back to the last time you watched – with whatever level of arousal or discomfort – a sex scene that depicted individuals anything other than young, firm and athletic.

You’re likely to be pondering for quite some time. The truth is that there are few representations of this kind.

Yet, as sex therapist Gail Thorne from relationship charity Relate says, “We’re getting better at inclusivity; at showing all kinds of different people and situations – but there are still many older people who really want to feel represented as having, and being accepted as having, intimate and loving relationships.” They want, she says, to see themselves as the poster kids for more than just life insurance and funeral homes.

“You look at advertising for clothes, for example,” says Thorne, “and you now see plus-size models and older models – but if you were to look for representations of intimacy in older people, you’d be hard-pressed to find it. And that’s part of why this campaign is so amazing.”

One of the Rankin images featured in the new Relate later life sex campaign - Rankin / Relate

The campaign to which she is referring was shot by British photographer Rankin, who has collaborated with Relate to shoot a series of black and white photos, depicting a range of couples and a single woman, all engaged in various moments of sexuality, vulnerability and intimacy.

The images in the campaign, titled ‘Let’s Talk the Joy of Later Life Sex,’ were created with input from the couples to ensure that nothing was too staged or unnatural. The impetus, says advertising and marketing agency Ogilvy, was a recognition of the fact that advertising most often fails to represent older generational intimacy, and to allow every photoshoot participant to feel “sincerely empowered.”

“We all need intimacy now more than ever,” says Rankin, who took the assignment on pro-bono. “Age… is just a number. The greatness of love and affection doesn’t need to change as we find our later years.”

According to research undertaken by 3Gem market research, there is a huge gap between how older people say they are represented in the media and how younger people perceive themselves to be: an astounding 67 per cent of over 65s say that sex and intimacy for their age group is rarely or never represented in media, compared with 20 per cent of 18-24 year olds.

Why is this the case, though? If we are to look at Maslow’s oft-touted Hierarchy of Needs, sex is a physiological need; up there with food and water – something that we cannot live without, even if we can muddle along without things further up the pyramid, such as achievement and creativity.

If we’re not uncomfortable with the idea of older people eating and drinking, then why should we feel awkward about the idea of them having sex? Equally, why should the individuals in that age group feel uncomfortable about the realities of their own sexuality? The study showed that most of the 60 per cent of over-65s who admitted to feeling uncomfortable about speaking with others about sex and intimacy cited ‘embarrassment’ as the primary reason.

Rankin Relate later life sex campaign - Rankin / Relate

Honesty and communication are, according to Thorne, key in any relationship. “Sex therapy is about encouraging people to feel confident and secure in saying what they want – what works for them; what doesn’t work for them; what feels good and what doesn’t,” she says.

By extension, it makes sense that talking about sex and intimacy – outside of the act itself – will further bolster confidence and trust: not only where people in that older age group are concerned, but also those for whom the prospect of getting older might be plagued with premature inklings of loss – loss of attractiveness, of desire and additionally, she says, of ability.

“Things change,” she says. “Women have babies, men become fathers, there are illnesses, there are bad backs … so many things happen to our bodies. Over our lifetimes, things change all of the time – and it’s important to be able to give voice to these changes and what they mean in terms of our sexual intimacy as time goes on.”

a close up of a man lying on a bed: Ranking sex later life Relate campaign - Rankin / Relate

She is at pains, too, to point out that this intimacy – at any age – is what works for you: it’s not, and does not need to be, the sweaty rampancy depicted in literature and films.

“In reality, ‘sex and intimacy in later life’ means different things to different people,” she says. ”For some, it’s about exploring new and different sexual experiences, and for others, it’s simply about feeling able to express emotion through a gentle touch or kiss on the cheek.”

“I’m excited to see what kind of society-wide conversation this opens up,” she adds. “It’s  our hope that it will raise awareness of the fact that intimacy is something that can be accessed by everyone, regardless of age, and that, if you’re struggling, then Relate’s sex therapy service is there to help.”