I am
Show me:
Show me:
Love mends broken hearts on Valentine’s Day
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Love mends broken hearts on Valentine’s Day

Today, Cupid is busy slinging arrows. Perhaps, you are frantic buying flowers or chocolates, booking dinner or penning a pitter-patter inducing poem.

Key takeaways

Thousands of Australians live with the pain and discomfort of heart disease, but these conditions can’t get in the way of love. Mel, Stephen and Alicia share their stories about heart disease and its impact on relationships, love and intimacy... 

Take a moment away from watching The Bachelor re-runs or listening to Barry White to consider those Australians living with a broken heart: today, nearly 1200 people will head to the hospital with symptoms of heart disease.

Thousands of Australians live with the pain and discomfort of heart disease, but these conditions can’t get in the way of love. Mel, Stephen and Alicia share their stories about heart disease and its impact on relationships, love and intimacy... 

Alicia, 33 years old

Alicia was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fellot – more commonly known as a hole in her heart – when she was three days old.  She had open heart surgery at four years old and then again at 29. After her last surgery Alicia experienced a roller coaster of emotions and spent a lot of time finding the things that made her feel better and more in control physically and mentally.

“I don’t think I was quite prepared for the emotional toll that the surgery would have on intimacy and sex with my partner. I had certainly prepared myself from a physical perspective – I knew what I could and couldn’t do, but what I didn’t expect was to be handled with ‘kid gloves’.

When I had my full heart study prior to surgery (like an angiogram), I was left with a huge bruise just next to my groin, and as a result, my partner at the time didn’t come anywhere near me until it healed. Post-surgery, even though I communicated my physical limitations and capabilities with my partner, he still wasn’t ready to initiate anything that he thought might hurt me.

We experienced a big dip in intimacy overall, which hurt our relationship long term. I don’t think he would have ever attended a support group, but even something like a written resource, would have helped.

I’m pretty in tune with my capabilities now, almost four years post-surgery, and I’m finding that the fitter and stronger I am, the more confident my partners are in my capabilities from an intimacy/sex perspective…but it’s definitely a question I get asked a fair bit when I meet someone new.”

Stephen, 45 years old

Stephen has been with his partner Peter for 16 years. Peter now 45, has endured five open heart surgeries between the ages of 13 and 39 years.  Stephen has been Peter’s main source of support for two of those surgeries.  He explains the challenges that come with maintaining intimacy when your partner is recovering.

Stephen and his partner Peter

“The physical side of a relationship stops completely and that continues a long time after surgery as well. But we like to think we are bigger and better than that, it’s not the be-all and end-all of a relationship at the end of the day.

It does take time to reintroduce it again as half the time I am sitting there going I don’t want to touch anything that’s going to hurt or break.  From a physical point of view, even coming home and giving him a hug sometimes hurts.

So, it's important to make sure you communicate and really talk about that stuff”.

Melanie, 32 years old

Mel was 26-years-old when she started having symptoms. She was eventually diagnosed with a congenital heart defect and dilated right chamber. This came as a big shock. She had 10 months of testing and then open-heart surgery. On top of all this, Mel had just got married.

Mel and her husband Ross

“I wasn’t prepared for the effect open heart surgery would have on sex and intimacy. All the anxiety I was feeling was so focused on the surgery. I wasn’t prepared for my recovery, especially since it wasn’t a typical recovery.

I had intense pain from pleurisy for the first 18 - 24 months post-surgery. I was bed ridden for days when it got bad. To be honest, early on, sex was the last thing from my mind. I guess I was just trying to walk and get through the basic daily tasks of recovery.

After surgery, I was much more in tune with my heart and body. I had anxiety due to all the pain and fear that comes with going through that kind of trauma. I had a high heart rate that resulted from surgery, and I found that having that heightened awareness of this made it difficult to relax and be intimate. When I started to get better and felt more like myself, we resumed sex. The first few times were definitely different. I remember feeling quite anxious the first time and thinking, how was my heart going to go? And my pain? That kind of thought wasn’t just limited to sex. 

What I found helpful was communicating to my partner how I was feeling about it all. It can be quite difficult for them, adjusting to this new normal. Once I started getting stronger and feeling better, being intimate normalised. I would listen to my body and heart and go from there.

Intimacy is a funny one, I felt so close to my partner and my mum during my recovery. They were the ones caring for me around the clock. And with my slow recovery with pain, they helped me with all the basics like showering. 

I am really grateful that I had the close bonds with my partner and family and felt really supported throughout my recovery. I think that’s what really got me through - all the love I felt.” 

Read more about sex and relationships after a heart event

 

You might also be interested in

At the heart of Mother’s Day

At the heart of Mother’s Day

At the heart of Mother’s Day

Three people living with heart disease share how their Mums helped them face their health challenges....

Psychological and social health action plan

Psychological and social health action plan

Key steps that can help you manage your emotional health....

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Having a mental health condition can have a negative impact on your heart health and increase your risk of heart disease....

Heart stories

Heart stories

Heart stories

Stories of hope from Australian men and women fighting heart disease....

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

This is a guide to how you might be feeling after a heart attack. ...

After being treated for atrial fibrillation, Boyd is now back on track

After being treated for atrial fibrillation, Boyd is now back on track

After being treated for atrial fibrillation, Boyd is now back on track

Running has been an important part of Boyd's life, so imagine his shock when a heart condition he had never heard of threatened to put a stop to it. ...

Cardiac arrest at 26: adjusting to a new ‘normal’

Cardiac arrest at 26: adjusting to a new ‘normal’

Cardiac arrest at 26: adjusting to a new ‘normal’

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

Claude Lam, Open heart surgery survivor...

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril suffered a heart attack in 2015. Cardiac rehab helped get his life back on track. ...

Daniel's cardiac arrest helped him discover another problem

Daniel's cardiac arrest helped him discover another problem

Daniel's cardiac arrest helped him discover another problem

Dan was six minutes into his treadmill session when his heart stopped beating....

David’s shock heart failure diagnosis was just the start of a tough journey

David’s shock heart failure diagnosis was just the start of a tough journey

David’s shock heart failure diagnosis was just the start of a tough journey

David's heart failure diagnosis led to significant changes in his life....

Debbie's heart story

Debbie's heart story

Debbie's heart story

Debbie decided to give cardiac rehab a go and hasn’t looked back since. ...

Exercising for heart and soul

Exercising for heart and soul

Exercising for heart and soul

Alicia Philipatos was three days old when her heart condition was diagnosed...

Gary's heart story

Gary's heart story

Gary's heart story

Gary's heart attack came without warning....

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

I’d always thought of myself as fairly fit; I swam a lot, and did ‘soft running’, a combination of running and walking. ...

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Thankfully for Grant Byrne, a lifelong Led Zeppelin fan, some quick thinking helped him avoid a stairway to heaven. Read Grant’s heart attack story now. ...

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

David reflects on how his life changed when he had a heart attack at 35 and how he got back on track....

Helen's heart story

Helen's heart story

Helen's heart story

It wasn’t until Helen's second heart attack that she realised the importance of exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet....

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

Kim shares the emotional and physical upheaval experienced on her journey to diagnosis and recovery....

I’m a mum and I survived a heart attack

I’m a mum and I survived a heart attack

I’m a mum and I survived a heart attack

Nicola, mum of 2, shares her heart attack recovery story....

Help others in need through a gift in your Will

Help others in need through a gift in your Will

Help others in need through a gift in your Will

Ian “did not hesitate” to leave 100% of his estate to the Heart Foundation....

The one that took Jan’s breath away

The one that took Jan’s breath away

The one that took Jan’s breath away

Open heart surgery to treat damaged heart valves has improved Jan's overall health....

Jo's heart story

Jo's heart story

Jo's heart story

Joanne had five stents inserted into her heart in her early forties. Fifteen years later she had a triple bypass....

Join Kate in making a difference to future generations

Join Kate in making a difference to future generations

Join Kate in making a difference to future generations

Kate wanted to find a way she could make a difference to future generations...

Learning that heart disease can strike at any age

Learning that heart disease can strike at any age

Learning that heart disease can strike at any age

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

After having five open heart surgeries between the ages of 13 and 41, Peter knows a thing or two about recovery....

Living life on my terms as a young adult with heart disease

Living life on my terms as a young adult with heart disease

Living life on my terms as a young adult with heart disease

Lea was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at 24. She shares her story of recovery....

Looking after your emotional health in uncertain times

Looking after your emotional health in uncertain times

Looking after your emotional health in uncertain times

Blog by Carlye Weiner, Clinical Psychologist...

Margaret's heart story

Margaret's heart story

Margaret's heart story

Margaret was young, fit and otherwise healthy but suffered a major heart attack that could have devastated her life...

Maryanne was shocked to find she had a hidden heart problem

Maryanne was shocked to find she had a hidden heart problem

Maryanne was shocked to find she had a hidden heart problem

At first, it didn’t cross my mind it could be something serious. ...

My role as a cardiac nurse

My role as a cardiac nurse

My role as a cardiac nurse

Michelle shares her experiences working as a cardiac nurse at the Royal Melbourne Hospital....

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm didn’t worry too much about his cholesterol problem – until an angiogram revealed he had an 80 per cent blockage in a major heart artery. ...

Peter is breathing easy again after heart valve surgery

Peter is breathing easy again after heart valve surgery

Peter is breathing easy again after heart valve surgery

Peter has lived with a rare heart condition since he was 14, but hadn’t given it too much thought until his 30s....

Peter's heart story

Peter's heart story

Peter's heart story

After his heart attack Peter felt incredibly demoralised....

Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian

Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian

Associate Professor Nadine Kasparian

Understanding the connections between our physical and mental health....

Sharing scars, and more, on Valentine’s Day

Sharing scars, and more, on Valentine’s Day

Sharing scars, and more, on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day; some people celebrate, other’s vehemently oppose it. Whatever your opinion, it’s important to remember that the day is about love. All forms of it....

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy, Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack. However, after experiencing a ‘widow maker’, she counts herself lucky....

Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

Surprising ways your family can meet the challenge to keep active

Three young people living with heart disease share how they are dealing with COVID-19

Three young people living with heart disease share how they are dealing with COVID-19

Three young people living with heart disease share how they are dealing with COVID-19

Rachel, Angela and Lea are all young and living with heart conditions. ...

Two stories at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic

Two stories at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic

Two stories at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic

Savannah and Gerry, two Australians living with heart disease share their COVID-19 stories....

Warren's heart story

Warren's heart story

Warren's heart story

Warren suffered a heart attack while on a skiing holiday in Thredbo....

When The Heart Gets Heavy: Emotional Wellbeing and Heart Conditions

When The Heart Gets Heavy: Emotional Wellbeing and Heart Conditions

Emotional wellbeing is like having a garden, sometimes it grows green on its own, other times it needs watering, cutting back or fertilising....

Women's heart stories

Women's heart stories

Women's heart stories

Women's stories from around Australia...

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Sign up now and discover delicious, easy to follow dinner recipes. Plus shopping lists, tips and other helpful information to make healthy eating easy. ...

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

MyMarathon

The fundraising race where you set the pace. Run, jog or walk MyMarathon at your own pace during October....

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Our range of clinical and patient support resources are available for you to use in your daily practice....

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Full list of clinical guidlines and references for CVD, heart failure, ACS, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, SCAD and RHD...

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join the Heart Foundation community. Together, we can make a real difference for Australian hearts. ...

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

Ask the experts: caring for people with CVD during COVID-19...

Join Kate in making a difference to future generations

Join Kate in making a difference to future generations

Join Kate in making a difference to future generations

Kate wanted to find a way she could make a difference to future generations...

What is heart failure?

What is heart failure?

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a condition where your heart isn’t pumping as well as it should be....

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Discover what you need to know about being active after a heart attack....

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease occurs when a coronary artery clogs and narrows because of a buildup of plaque....

Heart failure resources for patients

Heart failure resources for patients

Educate your patients on everything they need to know about heart failure and managing their condition. ...

Baking recipes

Baking recipes

Baking recipes

Find heart healthy baking recipes ...

Is salt bad for your heart?

Is salt bad for your heart?

Is salt bad for your heart?

Most Australians are eating more than the recommended amounts and this can cause health problems....

Heart Safe Community

Heart Safe Community

Heart Safe Community

Heart Safe Community is a program that aims to increase a person’s chance of survival if they suffer a cardiac arrest outside of hospital. ...

Risk factors for women

Risk factors for women

Risk factors for women

In Australia, 90% of women have one risk factor for heart disease, and 50% have two or more. ...

What is angina?

What is angina?

What is angina?

Angina is a type of chest pain or discomfort that’s a symptom of an underlying heart problem, usually coronary heart disease (CHD)....

Heart Health Check Toolkit – Register Your Interest

Heart Health Check Toolkit – Register Your Interest

Heart Health Check Toolkit – Register Your Interest

The Heart Foundation will soon be launching a Heart Health Check Toolkit for GPs, practice nurses and practice managers....

Australian Heart Maps

Australian Heart Maps

Australian Heart Maps

Our Heart Maps allow you to take a closer look at heart disease indicators across Australia....

Action Plans

Action Plans

Action Plans

Recovery is a long journey, so having a plan makes a huge difference. Using an action plan gives you a step-by-step guide to improving your lifestyle....

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Every day, 22 women lose their lives to this condition....

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

Pauline is a nurse and shares advice for young people who have had a heart event or are recovering from surgery....

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Resources available for built environment professionals to help guide in the development of active outdoor and indoor spaces....

Supporting Your Emotional Wellbeing: An Online Forum for Young Heart Patients

Supporting Your Emotional Wellbeing: An Online Forum for Young Heart Patients

Supporting Your Emotional Wellbeing: An Online Forum for Young Heart Patients

Physical activity resources

Physical activity resources

Physical activity resources

Resources for health professionals interested in physical activity....

How to make healthier meals at home

How to make healthier meals at home

How to make healthier meals at home

Cooking at home is often healthier than eating out....

Life changing research currently underway

Life changing research currently underway

Life changing research currently underway

Search our current researcher's and the ground breaking research being undertaken....

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

Know your risk: Family history and heart disease 

A family history of heart disease could mean you are at greater risk....

Stay informed about COVID-19

Stay informed about COVID-19

Stay informed about COVID-19

If you have heart disease, you are more vulnerable to severe complications....