Ellen DeGeneres Says Portia de Rossi Has Been Her 'Rock' Through Tough Times: 'She Kept Me Going'

The couple, who has been married 12 years, reflects on their life together for PEOPLE's first annual Love Issue

After 12 years of marriage, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi have become well-versed in romance.

Whenever de Rossi, 48, has traveled and the two are apart, DeGeneres "has the hotel put rose petals in the shape of a love heart on my bed," she tells PEOPLE for one of this week's cover stories. "Every single time over the last 16 years. And it always catches me off-guard."

De Rossi will also "leave little notes around if she's going somewhere, which is really sweet," adds DeGeneres, 63. "She's just thoughtful."

ellen degeneres and portia de rossi
Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. Ari and Louise

The couple, who wed in August 2008 after same-sex marriage was legalized in California, were also a source of strength for one another last year after former employees of DeGeneres' talk show alleged a toxic work environment.

"It broke my heart; I couldn't have gone through everything I went through without her," allows DeGeneres. "It was a horrible time in my life, and she was a rock. She kept me going and tried to help me put things in perspective."

For more on Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Having ridden out the pandemic together (including DeGeneres' recovery from COVID-19), the two are even more resolved to never take each other for granted despite their busy schedules — DeGeneres also hosts her Game of Games on NBC and the upcoming HBO Max competition show Ellen's Next Great Designer, while de Rossi owns General Public, an art curation and publishing company.

2/22/2021 cover
Ari and Louise

"We've grown together as a couple, and we really consider each other and put our relationship first," says de Rossi. "By doing that, you become a lot more solid. I can't imagine spending time with anyone but her." Adds DeGeneres: "We think the same things, say the same things at the same time, finish each other's sandwiches — no, sentences. We're in a rhythm that's easy."

Watch the full episode of The Love Issue: Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi on PeopleTV.com or the PeopleTV app.

It's also easy for the couple to pinpoint what they love most about each other. "To start superficially, I love the way she looks. I love her brain; she's smart. That's really important," DeGeneres says of her wife. "She's strong. She's confident. She's really funny. And she's a good dresser and a good dancer. She's learning to cook."

ellen degeneres and portia de rossi
Portia de Rossi and Ellen DeGeneres. Steve Granitz/Wireimage

Hear more from Ellen and Portia on the PEOPLE Every Day podcast, airing on iHeartMedia, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Snuggling up to DeGeneres, de Rossi laughs. "Wow, how do I top that? She is the kindest, most generous, most loving, loyal, trustworthy person I have ever known," says the actress. "She's a very special human being. Some of it sometimes rubs off on me."

"We're lucky to have each other," DeGeneres adds. "We practice a lot of gratitude."

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