After nearly two decades together, you might think Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi would be sick of each other by now. But, the power couple couldn’t be happier. “Portia and I constantly say to each other, ‘We are so lucky,’” the talk show host shared with People in 2021. “I’ve gotten to a place where I really am just settled. Really. I know that I’m not going anywhere. She’s not going anywhere. I’m not saying the relationship took a while; I’m saying in my life, it took a while to find this.”
It also took a while for the couple to find their footing. While de Rossi’s sense of humor intrigued DeGeneres from the start (“She’s fantastic, she’s very, very funny,” the comedian previously shared with Us. “She makes me laugh, which is really important,"), the Arrested Development star needed time to navigate her sexuality in the spotlight. “Ellen really did help me through it just by being there and making me feel more comfortable about who I am—like there was nothing wrong with being gay. I think that's the first time in my life I felt that was true,” de Rossi explained to People.
Ultimately, their connection wouldn’t be denied. "I just got to a point where I chose love over anything else,” she said. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.”
Keep reading to relive their journey to the altar—and beyond.
- De Rossi has said she experienced love at first sight upon seeing DeGeneres.
- It took the Ally McBeal actress three years to express her feelings for the comedian.
- DeGeneres and de Rossi were legally wed in California in 2008.
- The couple has no plans to have children.
2001: Instant Connection
DeGeneres and de Rossi first crossed paths at a Rock the Vote concert in 2001. “We actually met socially and I just felt that immediate draw,” the de Rossi told Oprah Winfrey in 2009. “We did talk a little bit.”
De Rossi later elaborated in her memoir, Unbearable Lightness, writing, “I remember being so excited and overjoyed to be around her that I can still recall the feeling of running after her back stage.”
2000 to 2003: Under Wraps
While the pair would run into each other several times over the next few years, de Rossi kept her feelings for the funny woman hidden. “It took me three years to actually tell her how I felt about her because I was on Ally McBeal at the time, and I was not living as an openly gay person,” de Rossi would later explain to Winfrey. “I was closeted, and very, very afraid that if I talked about being gay it would be the end of my career.”
Additionally, de Rossi was already in a relationship with Francesca Gregorini. Her act fooled DeGeneres, who told Winfrey that she had given up hope of a romance between them. “I felt like we had a connection, and I didn’t feel anything back, and I just, you know, was like, ‘OK, well, I just have feelings for her,’” the Seriously… I’m Kidding author recalled.
2004: A Feeling Grows
De Rossi told Winfrey that the turning point for the couple came when she ran into DeGeneres at a photo shoot. “I just walked over to say hello to her and I couldn’t believe it, but she turned around, and it was like an arrow was shot through my heart,” the actress gushed. “I felt weak at the knees, and I was overwhelmed with how I felt.”
As she later confessed to Advocate, the sighting was also the catalyst for the end of her relationship with Gregorini. “[Ellen] took my breath away. That had never happened to me in my life, where I saw somebody and [experienced] all of those things you hear about in songs and read about in poetry…And it was very hard for me to get her out of my mind after that.”
She continued: “I really, really hated all the pain I put Francesca through, and I really didn’t want to hurt her. But I just couldn’t ignore the feelings I had for Ellen.”
December 1, 2004: A Life-Changing Confession
The couple started “talking” in late December after bumping into each other once more at the VH1 Big in ’04 event, at which point de Rossi confessed the nature of her feelings. "We saw each other and started talking, and that was it," DeGeneres explained to People. "She opened up and said she'd been thinking about me. And it surprised me. It was a big deal for her to be seen with me.”
January 26, 2005: Coming Out
Though she first came out to her mom at the age of 16, it would be more than 15 years before de Rossi shared her truth with the rest of the world. “When I really, truly came out was at the Golden Globes, when Arrested Development was nominated,” the actress reportedly shared during a 2013 episode of “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” “Ellen and I had been together for a month, and I was very, very nervous going to that because I knew that I was going to meet up with her after the show and that there was press,” she explained. “That was the first time that we actually stepped out together as a couple, but for me, it was the first time that I’d stepped out as a gay woman, really.”
2005: Coupled Up
Rather than being scary, going official made things even more thrilling for de Rossi, however. “Just being a couple—being able to walk down a red carpet holding her hand, that’s exciting for me,” she told Advocate of their early days.
De Rossi and DeGeneres began living together in their first year of dating. “We bought a ranch [in California] with 120 acres,” the Australian-born actress told Advocate in August 2005. “Ellen just bought me a horse, Jones, who’s a beautiful big gray gelding. Eventually I just want to rescue animals and live on that farm.”
January 2007: A Perfect Fit
The Finding Nemo star couldn’t help but gush over her girlfriend while speaking to Advocate in early 2007. “I could say the same thing I’ve said in every relationship: ‘I’m happy.’ But there’s happiness and there’s love, and then there’s completion,” she explained of the pair’s deeper connection. “It doesn’t take away from any of the relationships that I’ve had, ’cause I’ve had amazing relationships. But I feel like I found my perfect fit.”
May 16, 2008: Going to the Chapel
DeGeneres announced in a May episode of her show that she and her longtime love would soon walk down the aisle after the California Supreme court overturned a ban on gay marriage. “So I would like to say right now, for the first time, I am announcing: I am getting married,” she said during the clip.
The talk show host also shared her excitement with the audience, saying, “It’s something that of course we’ve wanted to do, and we want it to be legal, and we’re just very, very excited.”
August 16, 2008: Wedding Bells Ring
On August 16, 2008, just two months after California made same-sex marriage legal for the first time, DeGeneres and Rossi tied the knot in a private ceremony at their home in L.A. “All of a sudden, it was a like a gift that it was then legal,” de Rossi later told Oprah Winfrey.
While the couple originally planned for a big Hollywood bash, they reportedly changed their plans when it became too over-the-top. Ultimately, just 19 guests were in attendance to watch the two women exchange their vows, with DeGeneres in a pair of pants and a flowy Zac Posen blouse and de Rossi in a rose-colored backless wedding gown. "After Portia said her vows, Ellen turned to the crowd and said, 'Wait a minute, that's what I was going to say!' Then, they went on with the vows, and Ellen started crying, and they promised to be with each other forever,” an eyewitness told CBS News.
As DeGeneres later told de Rossi: “[Marriage] feels like you’re home, there’s an anchor, there’s a safety. I’m going to be with her until the day that I die and I know that.”
2008: Wedded Bliss
The lovebirds were spotted strolling along the beach in Malibu shortly after their nuptials, where they ran into Gavin Rossdale. DeGeneres reportedly raved about married life around that same time via her show, telling the audience, “What can I say? I'm the luckiest girl in the world. She's officially off the market. No one else gets her. And now she'll cook and clean for me.”
March 16, 2009: The Newlywed Game
In March 2009, the couple took their love on-air as they appeared as guests on The Newlywed Game. Though they didn’t fare so hot, getting just one question right in the clip, they had slightly better luck in 2015 when they played “The Not So Newlywed Game” after seven years together with two questions correct.
June 2009: Just the Two of Them
In 2009, the talk show host announced the couple’s plans to keep their family small. “I don’t think we’re going to have kids,” she reportedly told AOL Television. “We have animals, and we love them… We definitely thought about it but it’s just a huge responsibility, and I don’t know that that’s something we want to take on. We’re very happily married without children.”
Though the pair was heavily pressured to have babies over the years, they never changed their minds. “At this point, I feel like I'm disappointing the whole of America—not just my mother,” de Rossi joked to Jimmy Kimmel in 2014.
November 9, 2009: Love at First Sight
The pair gave a telling joint interview to Oprah Winfrey in November 2009, during which de Rossi revealed that she fell for the comedian instantaneously. “When did you know that she was the one?” Winfrey asked, to which de Rossi replied, “When I first laid eyes on her.”
September 2010: Mrs. DeGeneres
Two years after tying the knot, Portia was granted the right to legally change her name from Portia de Rossi to Portia Lee James DeGeneres. “I am thrilled to legally adopt my wife’s name,” she said in a statement at the time, adding, “I will continue to use Portia de Rossi for professional purposes.”
In 2012, the lovers teamed up for a pilot-turned-TV movie called The Smart One, for which de Rossi starred as a brilliant woman who goes to work for her less brainy-but-popular sister, and DeGeneres executive produced.
September 4, 2012: Starry-Eyed
De Rossi was by her spouse's side in September 2012 when she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
December 24, 2012: Beach Vibes Only
Just ahead of Christmas in 2012, the couple was spotted strolling hand-in-hand on the beaches of St. Barts.
2013: Happier Than Ever
De Rossi sounded off about the state of her marriage while talking to Out in 2013. "We've settled into happily married life," she told the publication. "We really support each other in whatever we're doing and we're incredibly happy, which is why you don't see us in the press so much. There's no drama to report."
The Screen Actors Guild award winner continued: "Married life is blissful, it really is. I've never been happier than I am right now."
August 16, 2014: A Sweet Surprise
For their sixth wedding anniversary, de Rossi surprised the philanthropist with a skywritten message reading “six.” “Look what my wife did for our wedding anniversary,” DeGeneres gushed on Twitter.
May 16, 2015: Growing Family
De Rossi showed a new addition to her DeGeneres's brood on Instagram in May 2015. “Our new family member! Gladys!” she captioned a photo of their three pooches.
September 8, 2015: Debunking Rumors
DeGeneres denied tabloid rumors of trouble in paradise in late 2015. “We really don’t almost break up, we don’t fight, we’re madly in love. Things are fantastic,” she told Howard Stern.
When the radio host asked if there was ever any jealousy between the two women due to the nature of the work, DeGeneres said their love was more or less unshakable. “Nobody gets jealous. I have faith in that we love each other. There’s not one bit of doubt,” she said. “Like literally yesterday, she said, ‘You’re my everything.’ And I said, I literally was just thinking that last night, I was laying awake, going, ‘She’s my everything.’ We think the same things, we are so similar, and yet we’re different enough.”
January 11, 2016: BFFs
In 2016, it was de Rossi’s turn to coo over her significant other. "We're just really good friends and we talk about everything, and we never ever, ever lie to each other, like, not even the tiniest lies," she told Entertainment Tonight. She continued: “And she's the only person I want to hang out with. Like, she is my best friend and I just want to be with her all the time. She's just so awesome! Who wouldn't want to be with Ellen all the time?"
January 14, 2016: Expanding Their Brood
While the couple shared several dogs by 2016, they had room for one more, welcoming a nine-week-old puppy named Kid into the mix. “He is absolutely adorable,” DeGeneres gushed on an episode of her show. “He’s … cute as can be.”
February 1, 2018: Birthday Blowout
Ahead of DeGeneres’s 60th birthday, de Rossi gave her an epic present, which she shared with the audience on a February episode of her wife’s The Ellen DeGeneres show. In the clip, de Rossi explained that she had set up a fund that would give gorillas a permanent home in Rwanda, carrying on the work of DeGeneres’s longtime hero, Dian Fossey. “For your birthday, Ellen, I am bringing you and your hero Dian together by building the Ellen DeGeneres campus of the Dian Fossey gorilla fund. Now, you will join Dian as a protector and champion of these amazing animals, the mountain gorillas,” de Rossi said. “I have also set up a foundation in your name called the Ellen DeGeneres wildlife fund, so this is the first initiative.”
Embracing her, a tearful DeGeneres explained to the crowd, “It’s the best gift," she said. "When we got married, Portia’s line was, ‘It’s good to be loved, it’s profound to be understood,’ and she understands me, because that is the best gift anybody could have given me.”
December 1, 2018: A Milestone Anniversary
The pair celebrated their 15th anniversary of coupledom in December 2018. While DeGeneres planned for a special surprise—a plane banner with a heart that read “15”—it wound up being difficult to see with the naked eye. “I should have specified the size,” she joked via Instagram.
September 17, 2019: New Blood
The duo's pack grew once more with the addition of a three-month-old poodle puppy in September 2019. "I can’t even tell you how excited I am,” DeGeneres said on her show in mid-September. “We rescued a puppy. She’s brand new—that’s what puppy means—so we got her from a rescue place called Wagmor.”
According to the TV guru, the new pup had had a rough go of things prior to landing in their home.“So she was never able to run, she never had a toy, she never wagged her tail,” she said. “She never lived next door to Oprah. It’s all changed. It’s all different now.” She added, "She's so cute, I can't even take it."
July 15, 2020: A Touching Farewell
The twosome lost a member of their family on July 15, 2020, with the passing of their dog, Wolf. “Last night we had to say goodbye to our dog,” DeGeneres shared on Instagram. “He brought us so much love and joy,” she wrote, adding, “I hope we did the same for him.”
February 10, 2021: The Love Issue
The wives were featured in People's love issue in February 2021, for which they discussed their then 12-year-long marriage. "We're in a rhythm that's easy," DeGeneres said in the piece. "We think the same things, say the same things at the same time, finish each other's sentences."
March 23, 2021: Through Thick and Thin
DeGeneres revealed de Rossi went through a health scare in March 2021 when she had to be rushed to the emergency room for appendicitis. “I get out of bed and I find Portia on the floor on all fours,” the comedian recalled on her show the next week. After rushing her to the hospital and doing a CT scan, de Rossi needed to be admitted, but her wife was turned away due to COVID-19 protocol. “The next morning, they call and they say, ‘It’s the appendix, we have to take the appendix out,” she said, adding, “I am happy to report Portia is feeling much better now.”
May 4, 2022: Heartfelt Advice
After 19 years, DeGeneres ended her run on daytime TV. For her final send-off, de Rossi stopped by the Ellen DeGeneres Show to offer some heartfelt advice. Explained DeGeneres: "[Portia] came into my life on the second season of this show, we’ve been together for 17 years. So with the show ending, you know, it’s actually a big thing for both of us."
De Rossi's response? "I want to make sure that you continue being a teacher because that’s really what you’ve been for everybody, and I just feel like, more than ever, we need love and light and laughter. So I hope that you continue to do something like that, like stand-up for example. I don’t really have an opinion, but stand-up would be good."
May 2022: Exploring the World
Shortly after ending her show, DeGeneres was photographed on holiday with her wife in Morocco, enjoying the Marrakech sights.