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Ross Geller Wasn’t Your TV Boyfriend - He Was the Smirking Epitome of Toxic Behavior
David Schwimmer as Ross Geller on Friends
Pop Culture

Ross Geller Wasn’t Your TV Boyfriend - He Was the Smirking Epitome of Toxic Behavior

Everyone has a favorite character from NBC's sitcom Friends. If yours is Ross Geller, then it's possible you fell into the trap of romanticizing his toxic relationships. Let's look at why he was the problem, and address the most asked-question in Friends history: Were they on a break?

Every fan of the beloved NBC comedy Friendshas a favorite character, whether it's the (initially) spoiled Rachel Greene, the obsessive Monica Geller, the sarcastic Chandler Bing, the quirky Phoebe Buffay, or the dim-witted Joey Tribbiani. However, if you were drawn to Ross Geller because of his physical comedy and awkwardness, you may have missed that he exhibited toxic traits that doomed his romantic relationships.

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Many of us look to our ideal fictional relationships as a guideline for what we want. But because fictional relationships are romanticized, they can lead to issues in our personal lives if we don’t take those couplings with a grain of salt. Let’s identify why Ross’ relationships always seemed to go wrong, and what patterns we can remember now looking back.

A Look at Ross Geller’s Many Divorces

Ross carol 1024x576
Carol and Ross on Friends

The first divorce we see Ross go through is in Season 1, with his wife Caro Willick. Contrary to the rest of his relationships, this one didn’t end because of Ross’ bad behavior. Rather, Carol was a lesbian who found love with Susan Bunch. This relationship was also Ross' least-complicated, because Carol was carrying Ross’ son, Ben.

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There’s more to say about Ross' second divorce, from Emily Waltham, whom Ross met through Rachel. At this point, Rachel and Ross had broken up, but it was clear they still loved each other, despite their latest romantic interests. After a whirlwind getaway, Emily and Ross decide to get married. Deep down, viewers were rooting for Ross to go through with this marriage, and for it to stick. Unfortunately, at the altar, Ross spoke Rachel’s name instead of Emily's, which understandably put a damper on the rest of the wedding. Ultimately, their short-lived romance was longer than the marriage itself.

Was this simply a slip of the tongue? Some fans think Ross said "Rachel" simply because she walked into the wedding venue just as they were speaking their vows. While that could be the case, it’s more likely that Ross was still in love with Rachel. However, because he hadn’t admitted it out loud in some time, his subconscious was merely saying where his heart was. Now, why was this toxic? Ross was constantly putting others in the middle of his relationship with Rachel, using other women to try to get over her. Not only does this hurt women like Emily, with whom he had promised a life, but it confused Rachel and kept her connected to Ross longer than what was healthy.

Rachel Greene and Ross Geller in Las Vegas
Rachel Greene and Ross Geller in Las Vegas

The final marriage, and divorce, to talk about is Ross' spontaneous Las Vegas adventure with Rachel. On a drunken night, Ross and Rachel somehow separate from their friends, only to be seen later stumbling out of a wedding chapel, with their faces covered with black marker.

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The intoxicated couple decided to tie the knot, and then had to get an annulment. Ross realizes that being divorced three times is worse than the situation he's in now. So, he tries to remain married to Rachel -- without her knowledge -- which is just as bad as it sounds in your head. Instead of owning up to his mistakes, Ross selfishly places his embarrassment and shame before the wants of Rachel, who absolutely did not want to stay married. But, Ross and Rachel have a more complicated history to analyze.

Were Ross and Rachel On a Break?

Ross rachel break 1024x576
Rachel Greene and Ross Geller: on a break?

The debate of whether Rachel and Ross were, or were not, on a break haunts Friends fandom to this day. Some side with Ross, but most will fiercely defend Rachel's position -- that they weren't on a break. So, what led to this cheating fiasco ?

Ross was always in love with Rachel, and everyone except Rachel herself knew that. When we say that his feelings for her go way back, we mean it. This was a love that many fans rooted for early in Friends' run. It was case of “will they or won’t they” that had everyone on the edge of their seats. When Rachel and Ross finally got together in the earlier seasons, it was exciting. And for a while, things were going OK. However, that doesn’t mean Ross wasn’t exhibiting some red flags.

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One of the most toxic traits displayed by Ross was his jealousy and controlling behavior, especially when it came to her job. Rachel broke free from her wealthy parents in an attempt to make a life for herself. She waited tables at Central Perk, the gang's regular hangout. But, eventually, Rachel broke into the fashion world and got a job she was good at and that meant a lot to her personal growth and career. Rather than being happy and understanding, Ross became jealous and angry about her co-workers, long hours, and her passion for what she did.

This became the couple’s downfall. Rather than supporting Rachel at a pivotal time in her life, he allowed his own sentiments to get in the way. On top of not supporting her job, Ross had a serious jealousy issue with her co-worker Mark, and made Rachel feel guilty for having a male friend.

That all led to the infamous “break” in which Rachel claimed she needed some space from Ross. Thinking that she broke up with him, Ross slept with another woman. He then found a voicemail from Rachel in which she insisted she didn't want space, and loved him enough to work through their problems. Rather than fess up to his mistake, Ross tried to hide his actions from Rachel, which only proves he knew he was in the wrong.

Is Ross Geller a Terrible Character, or Simply Toxic?

Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer on FRIENDS

So, was this cheating? We’re going to say yes. Cheating in and of itself doesn't make Ross Geller an insufferable boyfriend. It’s his habitual selfishness and deception. It’s also the way he uses other women to get over Rachel, and manipulates them in a way that benefits only him. That is, until it doesn't anymore, and the relationship ends, badly.

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His terrible conduct and awful relationship patterns don’t necessarily tear down his character. While Ross' morals are questionable, he still offers great comedic release to Friends. He also serves many purposes, such as bringing Emma, Rachel’s daughter, into the world, and even being one of the reasons the whole gang got together in the first place.

Ross might be a despicable boyfriend and husband, but he’s a pretty funny guy. You should use Ross as a guideline for what to avoid and recognize in your own personal relationships. However, you shouldn’t write Ross off right away for being the worst character on Friends.


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