“We Were On A Break!” | FRIENDS Case Study: Was Ross In The Wrong?


Recently arriving on Netflix in the UK, the TV show Friends is undergoing something of a revival at the moment. More than a decade after the finale aired (and more than two decades since the show began), the show is still fondly remembered by millions. 

One of the most famous plot points on the decade-long will-they-won’t-they storyline of Ross and Rachel’s romance is their relationship “break”, during which Ross slept with another woman.

But was Ross in the wrong? Were they on a break? Did he cheat?

The context:

As Rachel becomes more independent, she gets a new job at Bloomingdale’s, a big step for her in her career. She loves her position and begins devoting a lot of time to it and the man who gave her the job, Mark (who seems to display a romantic interest in her). Ross suddenly is not seeing Rachel much at all for a few weeks, and remembering how he lost Carol to Susan, becomes very suspicious of Mark and frequently tells Rachel of this. When Rachel is forced to work on their one-year anniversary, Ross shows up to her work with a picnic basket as a gesture, but Rachel by now has had it with his insecurity and throws him out.

What happened:

That evening, they have a fight in which the following exchange occurs:

  • Rachel: …Maybe we should just take a break!
  • Ross: Ok, fine. Fine. Let’s take a break. Let’s cool off. Let’s get some frozen yogurt or something.
  • Rachel: No! …a break from us.

Ross says nothing to this and leaves, going to a bar. He think this means that the relationship is over, and he decides to drink his sorrows away. Meanwhile, Rachel is talking to Mark on the phone, as the rest of the friends are out and busy. Mark invites himself over to Rachel’s, despite Rachel’s protests, as a means of comforting her. This confirms Mark’s romantic interest in her. Ross meanwhile starts chatting up a friendly girl at the bar. Chloe. Ross eventually tries to call Rachel on his cell phone and attempts to make up with her, but he hears Mark, who has by now arrived, in the background. This confirms his suspicions about Mark, in his mind anyway, and he hangs up. Feeling sorry for Ross, Chloe goes back with him and has sex with him.

Rachel later discusses the issue with Monica and then decides to make up with Ross, leaving him a message, which Ross does not hear until the next morning. He agrees to reconcile and keeps his night with Chloe a secret from her figuring that it will only anger Rachel. His estimation proves true when Rachel learns of the night with Chloe through a chain of mutual friends and acquaintances that connect Chloe and Rachel, and Rachel is infuriated and believes that Ross technically cheated on her, leading them to break up once and for all.**

The Debate

YouGov asked 862 Brits who had watched the show and knew about ‘The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break’ their thoughts on the matter, and the results are in.*

Ross’s frequent cries of “we were on a break!” are not enough to get him off the hook. Asked whether it was acceptable to have sex with someone else while “on a break”, the general public is split, with 41% saying it is acceptable while  37% say it isn’t (including 30% of those who accept that the couple were on a break at the time).

Men and women take opposing views on the subject. While 46% of men say Ross’s actions are acceptable compared to 33% who think they are unacceptable, 40% of women believe he is in the wrong compared to 36% who think his actions were ok.

Communicating correctly

A break isn’t quite the same thing as a breakup (the first includes hope to restart the relationship in the future, the second clearly says that the relationship is over, that there is no hope to restart something, at least not any time soon, if not forever) ;

On one side, you could say Rachel is the one who wanted the break in the first place. She is the one who called Mark when she was upset. So maybe it was her fault? I mean, for all we know, Ross really did think that they were broken up. However, in actuality, Rachel didn’t really think seriously about what she said: it was the heat of the moment – and as most of us know, things we don’t mean are usually said in the middle of a heated argument.

Instead of just leaving the room after Rachel said the famous line “No! A break from us.” Ross could have asked for Rachel to explain. But instead he just leaves and presumes the relationship has ended. Then, when the other guys convince him to try to work things out, he jumps to the conclusion that Rachel is hooking up with Mark and acts out by sleeping with the xerox girl.

He could have asked Rachel before he left if they were breaking up or when he called her from the bar, but instead he angrily hangs ups after assuming the worst, and in turn, made the situation irreparable. Communication is key, and if Ross was unsure about the events of what happened, he should have waitied and clarified once the situation had cooled off.

Even if Ross did believe they were no longer together, he still slept with another girl, he barely knew, less than 24 hours after they “broke up.” It is also very obvious, during the first argument, Rachel never actually said “I want to break up.” She says, “Maybe we need a break,” and then Ross stormed out. Maybe if he had stayed in that moment and fought for Rachel, they would have never been in that sort of predicament.

The following morning, after Ross sleeps with “the xerox girl,” Rachel calls and on the machine says, “I don’t want to get back together on the phone, I’m coming over.” This implies Rachel also thought that they were broken up. Which means, Ross did not cheat.

He didn’t cheat, but his actions were reckless, hurtful and ultimately meant the situation became an impossible emotional playground. Are Rachel’s emotions normal and understandable? Yes. She’s hurt that the person she loves could do that to her. 

Rachel should’ve been more clear about the “break.” But regardless, Ross still shouldn’t have WANTED to sleep with someone else.

never settle kiss


**Debate Friends Forum

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