The true story behind Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche's breakup

TV mega-star Ellen DeGeneres first met actress Anne Heche at the Vanity Fair Oscars party in 1997. It was practically love at first sight for the two, who quickly started dating soon after that. At the time of the party, DeGeneres hadn't publicly come out yet, but she made her big announcement literally days later, according to InStyle.

The two openly in-love stars dealt with their fair share of controversy — they were easily the most famous LGBTQ couple in Hollywood at a time when not as many people were okay with same-sex relationships. Apparently it was harder for DeGeneres to feel comfortable with being out in a same-sex relationship than it was for Heche. The now-polarizing TV host told the Los Angeles Times in 2001, "I didn't want to hold hands. I had never done that in public. And yet there was this attitude of, you know, 'You're going to be on the cover of Time magazine and say you're gay but you're not going to hold hands? You deserve to hold hands as much as Tom and Nicole. Or Tom and Rita.' So I have to take responsibility for participating in [that]."

Their romance wasn't meant to last forever, though — the two called it quits three and a half years into the relationship. According to ABC News, the relationship ended in late summer 2000, just weeks after the couple was seen house hunting in LA, looking as happy as ever. So, what went wrong?

Ellen DeGeneres said she felt 'betrayed' by the breakup

The official statement Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres provided at the time of their breakup was this (via ABC News): "Unfortunately, we have decided to end our relationship. It is an amicable parting, and we greatly value the 3 1/2 years we have spent together. We hope everyone will respect our privacy through this difficult time." A source told the news outlet at the time that the relationship had run its course, nothing more, nothing less.

However, DeGeneres told the Los Angeles Times in 2001 that the split sent her reeling. "She walked out the door and I haven't spoken to her since, I don't have the answers," she said. "I would love to have them myself. I would ask all of the questions that everyone else wants to ask.... I'm left with everybody else wondering what happened. I don't know. I really don't.... I feel betrayed." DeGeneres added that this was the first time she'd ever had her heart broken and didn't have closure. Even years later, the two haven't said any more about exactly what went wrong in the relationship.

Anne Heche blamed her post-split breakdown on her father

What was so interesting about Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche's breakup was Heche's actions the day after the couple publicly announced they'd split. According to InStyle, "Heche showed up at the door of a stranger's home in Cantua Creek, Calif., and had an emotional breakdown, requesting a shower and declaring herself God. The homeowner called the authorities, and Heche was hospitalized." Heche later opened up about her earlier life, and her relationship with DeGeneres in particular, in an interview with Barbara Walters on 20/20 in 2001.

On 20/20, Heche said (via E! News) that her mental issues came from a history of abuse by her father that caused her to compartmentalize herself into two personalities, the other being called Celestia. "I'm not crazy. But it's a crazy life," she explained. "I was raised in a crazy family and it took 31 years to get the crazy out of me." Heche said it was all of that past building up that led to her breakdown after her breakup with DeGeneres, but she also reminisced about the relationship.

Discussing the night she met DeGeneres, Heche said, "Her name was Ellen DeGeneres. She was radiating. I think at certain times in people's lives you just radiate an energy and a glow of fabulousness. And that was her. I had never seen anybody so lit up."

Anne Heche has chosen not to elaborate on her sexuality

After Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres broke up, Heche didn't continue to date women. DeGeneres was actually the first woman Heche dated, and thus far, the last that we know about. In 2001, she told Barbara Walters that DeGeneres was also the first woman she'd ever slept with. Heche said of the relationship (via E! News), "I felt cared for... I felt free to express a part of me that I had not been able to express with a man. I felt sensuous and sexual the way I hadn't before." And while she was married to Coley Laffoon (a cameraman she met on DeGeneres' show) at the time, Heche told Walters she wasn't limiting who she loved. "You fall in love with a person, not a sex."

That being said, after Heche and Laffoon divorced, she went on to date and have a child with actor James Tupper. They stayed together until 2018, and while these are her only high-profile relationships, Heche doesn't seem to want to place a label on her sexuality. In that same interview with Walters, she said (via ABC News) that Laffoon supported her openness with sexuality: "I would never limit myself to saying I would be with a man or a woman."

Following their breakup, DeGeneres moved on as well. DeGeneres dated Alexandra Hedison for a bit before settling down with Portia de Rossi in 2004, whom she's been with ever since.