Over the years, “Friends” has become a cultural touchstone of the ’90s. And one of the most memorable things to come from the long running sitcom? Ross and Rachel. This on-again-off-again couple were loved by millions in their heyday. For many of us, they were the original couple we “shipped.” Diehard fans of “Friends” probably remember all of the big moments for Ross and Rachel — when they kissed in the coffee shop for the first time, when they went on their infamous break, when they drunkenly got married in Vegas, and the list goes on.
But what was really going on between Ross and Rachel underneath all of these silly plot lines? It turns out, their relationship was a little more complicated and sinister than we initially realized. We’ve taken another look at this infamous couple to find out: what did we all miss about Ross and Rachel’s relationship in “Friends”?
Ross was a little too obsessed with Rachel
The first time you watched “Friends,” you were probably touched by how Ross still had a little crush on Rachel all those years after high school. However, rewatching the show, we actually realized that Ross’s obsession with Rachel, both before and during the events of the show, was — well — just a little bit creepy. And other fans agree. As one viewer wrote for Grazia, “Ross’s fixation on [Rachel] ever since she was a teenage prom queen is actually kinda creepy.”
In another Grazia article, a viewer expanded: “It becomes clear that while he was a college student, he once kissed her while she seemed to be unconscious (it was actually Monica, turns out, but still) and when he was at high school he felt so rejected by her he set up a cruel club dedicated to mocking her.”
It’s true — sadly, Ross is a bit of a creep. When Rachel wasn’t interested in him, he either tried to kiss her while unconscious (which these days is viewed as a form of assault) or he set about bullying her. Not cool, Ross.
'Friends' was more entertaining and exciting when Ross and Rachel weren't together
Most “Friends” fans tuned into the show each week hoping that Rachel and Ross would get past their differences, make up, and get back together. Of course, every now and then, the couple looked like they were about to rekindle their romance, but something always seemed to get in the way.
As executive producer Kevin S. Bright told Metro, they actually kept the couple apart on purpose. “It allowed us to have fun with the show and give people something to root for,” he shared. He explained that while fans liked seeing Rachel and Ross together, it actually made the show worse. “We realized when we got them together when the first kiss happened we go, ‘Wow, the air has kind of gone out of the balloon.’ There wasn’t that sexual tension anymore.”
Bright has a point — it’s actually kind of nice to have something to root for and hope for while watching “Friends.” And if this couple had stayed together for 10 seasons, it would have gotten pretty boring.
Both Ross and Rachel did not deal with their jealousy all that well
Of all of the toxic emotions that can come up during a relationship, jealousy is probably one of the worst. As Psychology Today noted, “Jealousy can be a major relationship problem,” and Ross and Rachel both had their fair share of jealousy throughout their relationship on “Friends.” As Cosmopolitan noted, Rachel was almost always jealous of Ross’s girlfriends, even when she had previously said they were over. “Bonnie, Charlie, Julie, Emily … the list goes on,” the publication wrote.
And Ross was no better. He became obsessively jealous of Mark, Rachel’s co-worker, while the pair were dating. He even went so far as to send her creepy possessive gifts at work as though trying to stake his territory. As BuzzFeed put it, “I guess she’s not allowed to make friends in a new workplace.”
It’s pretty clear that Ross and Rachel both had some issues with jealousy and trust.
Will we ever really know if Ross and Rachel were on a break?
Ah yes, the million dollar question: were Ross and Rachel on a break? The couple’s first dramatic breakup came when Rachel suggests the pair go on a “break” and Ross, thinking she meant they should “break-up,” jumped into bed with someone else.
The question remains, though: were they actually on a break? As relationship therapist Gabrielle Applebury told Refinery29, “The scene ends with Rachel saying, ‘Maybe we should take a break,’ and Ross storming out without commenting. To me this means that technically they were not on a break. Ross never agreed to take a break and Rachel said ‘maybe’ without being definitive.”
However, the majority of “Friends” fans seem to think that Ross was in the right. According to a poll by the dating app Plenty of Fish, 60% of fans were Team Ross (via People). David Schwimmer even weighed in on “The Tonight Show,” saying, “Yeah, it’s not even a question: They were on a break.” Of course, some people think it’s more complicated. Patrice N. Douglas, another relationship therapist, explained to Cosmopolitan that the couples’ vague language meant that neither were to blame.
Rachel's letter to Ross was a little over the top
Let’s talk about that letter that Rachel writes to Ross after their first breakup on “Friends.” While we totally get that it can be helpful to get your feelings down on paper, this letter was a little over the top. In fact, it was 18 pages long – front and back. As ScreenRant noted, this short novella is kind of unbelievable. “How did Rachel come up with that much to say about their relationship? They’d only really known each other for three years at that point.” In fact, the letter was so long, Glamour even included it in a list of books read on the show, calling it, “Does It?” by Rachel Karen Green.
Even though the letter was seriously long, we still think Ross should have tried to finish it before agreeing with Rachel’s demands in the letter. By lying about finishing the letter, Ross once again proved himself to be an unreliable boyfriend. If he had been honest about not reading the letter, maybe they could have had a calm conversation about their first breakup. But who are we kidding — Ross and Rachel can’t seem to discuss their relationship problems without dissolving into a yelling match!
This joke was actually referencing another iconic 'Friends' moment
In the “Friends” episode “The One with the Jellyfish,” Rachel and Ross have yet another shouting match after breaking up yet again when Ross finally reads Rachel’s letter, which demands he take full responsibility for their first breakup. During this breakup, Rachel yells, “Hey, just so you know, it’s not that common, it doesn’t happen to every guy, and it is a big deal!” This cryptic joke got a huge laugh from the on-set audience, but some fans never fully understood it.
As executive producer Greg Malins told Entertainment Weekly, he came up with the joke. “I remember thinking, ‘If I don’t pitch this exactly right, it’s not gonna get it,'” he recalled. He went on to explain that the joke was actually referencing a much earlier scene between Ross and Rachel. As producer Adam Chase said, the joke was in reference to the “juice box moment” from “The One Where Ross and Rachel… You Know” in Season 2 of “Friends.”
While the joke is a little dirty, it doesn’t need to be spelled out. As Chase said, “we all knew exactly what [Malins] meant, and we loved that it called back to an iconic moment without ever being explicit.”
Rachel and Ross always wanted to win, never compromise
Most people will probably agree that a relationship shouldn’t be about winning. After all, it’s not a competition! However, this may be one of the key points where Ross and Rachel went wrong; on “Friends,” their relationship is constantly about one-upmanship.
Insider put it perfectly: “Winning an argument shouldn’t be more important than the health of your relationship.” And Ross and Rachel’s biggest fights always come back to the question of whether or not they were on a break. However, as relationship counsellor Bukky Kolawole told the publication, Ross and Rachel were too focused on winning the argument. “If they had been willing to give up whose definition was right and engaged in the more vulnerable and therefore more courageous way,” Kolawole explained, “they could have worked together to save and restore their relationship.”
Of course, working together was never Ross and Rachel’s strong suit. Instead, these two characters were always determined to win. No wonder they never seemed to work as a couple.
Rachel and Ross did not respect each other's jobs
When it comes to healthy relationships, respect is the name of the game. If you can’t respect your partner, chances are, your relationship is going to be pretty imbalanced and toxic. Unfortunately, Ross and Rachel had a hard time respecting the other person’s job.
For one thing, Rachel (like the other friends) frequently made fun of Ross’s job on “Friends,” even though he was a paleontologist and a professor. In one scene, Ross introduces himself as “Dr. Ross Gellar,” and Rachel says, “Ross, please, this is a hospital, that actually means something here.”
And Ross isn’t much better. When Rachel gets her dream job in fashion, Ross assumes that she got the job because a guy at the office had a crush on her. He then proceeds to fill her desk with gifts. Later, he arrives at her office and tries to set up a date night for them while she is trying to work. Wow, could they be anymore disrespectful!
The fact that Ross said Rachel's name at the altar is less weird than it seemed
When Ross married Emily and said, “I Ross take thee, Rachel,” straight to Emily’s face at the altar, fans everywhere were shocked. I mean, who does that?! It turns out, however, the mistake may have actually been more understandable than it appeared.
According to one “Friends” writer, the infamous moment was actually inspired by something that happened in real life on the “Friends” set. The writer explained in an interview posted on Instagram, “There was one time, at a taping, where David Schwimmer walked in the room. What he was supposed to say was, ‘I have the cab waiting downstairs, Emily.'” However, Schwimmer accidentally called her Rachel (via The Sun).
The writers suddenly realized that this would make a great joke in the wedding scene. Maybe it’s easier to get confused about who you’re dating than we initially realized!
That episode when Rachel was nude in her apartment has aged poorly
Remember that episode of “Friends” when Rachel was home alone and decided to walk around her house in the nude? When Ross saw her from his window, he made the assumption that Rachel was trying to send him some kind of veiled message. Needless to say, this assumption comes across as downright creepy and misogynistic from a modern perspective. In fact, it was pretty creepy at the time, too. Rachel should have been able to do whatever she wanted in her own home without having to worry about her creepy ex!
As one fan wrote for BuzzFeed, “Rachel was naked at home and he thought that meant that she was asking for sex. … He was so possessive of women and treated them as if they were objects, not actual human beings.” We have to agree — this was a pretty gross moment and definitely not a high point for Ross.
The fact that Ross lied about their annulment was actually horrible
We already know that Ross was something of a serial liar when it came to his relationship with Rachel; however, one lie was truly abhorrent on “Friends.” When Rachel and Ross drunkenly eloped in Vegas, Ross was so embarrassed to be going through another divorce, he lied to Rachel about getting an annulment and literally stayed married to her against her will.
Many viewers thought this was the worst thing Ross ever did on the show. As one wrote for BuzzFeed, “He completely ignored Rachel’s feelings on the matter,” and another viewer wrote, “It was just some nasty kind of power play. … I would have gotten a restraining order if I were her.” That pretty much sums it up — this was some seriously messed up behavior. When you think about it, it’s actually hard to see how Rachel ever got back together with Ross in the end after this.
Ross and Rachel weren't exactly the best parents to their child
Ross and Rachel eventually had a child called Emma, who they raised together even though they weren’t a couple at the time. Unfortunately, neither Ross nor Rachel proved to be great parents.
As Ranker pointed out, Ross was a pretty bad father to his son Ben and later to Emma. For one thing, when Rachel tells Ross she’s moving to Paris, Ross seems to be more upset about losing his ex-girlfriend than he is about losing his daughter. Ross also proves himself to be a bad father when he shared that he would rather hire a bad female nanny than hire an amazing male nanny.
Unfortunately, Rachel isn’t that much better at parenting. According to Moms, Rachel once left her daughter locked in her apartment, left her daughter’s party to track down the perfect cake, avoided doing her pregnancy shopping and research, and the list goes on. It’s safe to say that neither Rachel nor Ross are really responsible enough to be called great parents.
One thing Ross and Rachel did right was being friends after breaking up
We’ve discussed a lot of the reasons why Ross and Rachel aren’t a great couple, but there is one thing they managed to do better than other couples: These two managed to forge an impressive friendship after breaking up on “Friends.”
As Mic noted, this can be pretty hard for most couples. However, it’s actually pretty healthy. “Those who can stay friends with a former love are the most mature, satisfied partners among us — and the ones coming from romances that were built on real friendships,” the publication wrote.
Apparently, exes tend to part ways after a breakup when their relationship isn’t actually based on the foundation of friendship. However, in Ross and Rachel’s case, they were friends above all else, so when they broke up, they eventually found their way back to being friends — and we think that’s actually pretty sweet.
Rachel and Ross probably would have been horrible together
After taking another look at Ross and Rachel’s relationship over the course of “Friends,” it’s pretty safe to say that their relationship was pretty unhealthy. Of course, the couple did get back together again at the end of the series. But it turns out, many people think that their relationship would be doomed if the show were to continue.
In 2019, relationship psychologist Zoe Coetzee told Metro, “In the romantic rhetoric of happily ever after, it’s easy to forget that lasting love is based on more than grand gestures, and a relationship which blows hot and cold doesn’t make for a healthy foundation.” In Coetzee’s opinion, Ross and Rachel probably would have broken up in the years that followed the series finale. “By getting off the plane, Rachel gave up her job in Paris, the fashion capital of the world. It’s difficult to imagine she didn’t wonder ‘what if’ in the following years.” She went on to explain that the couples’ many issues would still be at play and they would probably go back to being friends and co-parents.
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