Friends taught us many things about friendship, New York City, and coffeehouses. It definitely gave us unrealistic expectations for the amount of time adults spend working vs the time they spend drinking coffee with friends. It also gave us unrealistic expectations for the expense of living in New York, but that’s a whole other issue. The best lessons from Friends, though, were the lessons about relationships.
We love Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Ross and Chandler, but they made some awful mistakes in their love lives. Ross, alone, accidentally cheated on the love of his life, got divorced three times, and said the wrong name at the alter. Chandler ended up in a box for kissing Joey’s girlfriend. Rachel sent guys running, despite being the most beautiful woman on the planet. Basically, none of them could get it right and, thankfully, we learned from their mistakes.
The few times that they did get it right, there were lessons as well. When Monica and Chandler got together, they were a quirky, but very healthy couple. They compromised and talked through their problems. For as bad as Monica and Chandler were at dating other people, they were remarkably good at being together.
Below are 17 relationship lessons we definitely learned from watching Friends. Hey, I guess that 45th viewing of the entire series wasn’t a waste of time after all.
17 Define The Terms Of A "Break"
Friends could have been, like, six seasons shorter had Ross and Rachel been clear about what a break is. First Rachel said that they should take a break and Ross just thought that they were going to get ice cream. He literally thought that she just meant a break from the fight. Wrong, Ross. When it became clear that Rachel was asking for a break from the relationship, Ross also misinterpreted that. He thought she meant a break-up, and he slept with the girl from the Xerox place. Wrong again, Ross. Had they just been clear about what exactly a break is, none of this would have happened.
In life, if you’re ever in need of a break from your significant other, be completely clear about the terms of and the purpose of said break. No one wants to be the Ross or the Rachel in this situation.
16 Don't Repeat The Same Mistakes
The characters on Friends were nothing if not consistent. They were even consistent in their mistakes. Chandler gets back together, time and time again, with Janice. In fact, he probably would have hooked up with her a few more times had he not gotten together with Monica. Rachel hooks up with Paolo a second time. Rachel also hooks up with Barry, the guy she left at the alter. Ross had three failed marriages under his belt. While the third marriage was a bit of a joke, he still jumped into a marriage with Emily rather quickly despite the fact that he was already divorced. Monica backslides into Richard. TBH, who wouldn’t backslide into Richard? The man was pure hunk.
When it comes to your love life, don’t repeat the same mistakes because the outcome will always, always, always be the same. That is what Friends taught us. You and your ex will still not be able to work it out. Trust us, we’ve been there too.
15 A Secret Relationship Is Hard Work
Friends was at its prime when Chandler and Monica were keeping their relationship secret. This is mostly because keeping a relationship secret provides for many laughs. There was the time when Chandler and Monica were taking a bubble bath and she had to duck under the water when Joey came in. There was also the time when Rachel heard Monica talking dirty to Chandler on the phone, and Monica covered it up by saying Chandler was racist. The two went to extremes to keep their relationship secret.
While Chandler and Monica were keeping their relationship secret because they didn’t want to change the dynamic of the group, there are many other reasons why someone may keep a relationship secret. You may be seeing someone you’re not supposed to be seeing. You may be embarrassed about who you’re seeing. You may be with a guy your friends don’t approve of. Whatever the case, if you’re deliberating about engaging in a relationship that has to stay hush hush, just remember what hard work it was for Chandler and Monica. It'll be hard work for you too, girl.
14 Don't End Up In A Box
That time Chandler crossed the line, guys. When Joey was dating Kathy, it seemed like she was the perfect girl… for Chandler. He even ran several city blocks just to say hello to her in one episode. Chandler’s pining was adorable because it was so very Chandler. What was not so-very-Chandler was the way he kissed Kathy while she was still dating Joey. Not cool, Chandler. Not cool at all.
Of course, Chandler didn’t really mean to hurt Joey’s feelings. He let his passions get the best of him. However, no girl or guy is worth losing a friendship over. Learn from Chandler’s mistake and don't end up in a box. Speak up if you're having feelings for a guy your friend is kind of seeing... or, y’know, just find a new guy to have feelings for. Plenty of fish and all of that.
13 Everyone Gets Over An Ex In Their Own Way
Getting over a break-up is difficult. Each member of the group had their own particular ways of dealing with a break-up. Chandler had several stages of mourning, one of which involved going to a strip club. Monica was obsessive, which was pretty typical since she’s obsessive even when she hasn’t been freshly dumped. Joey didn’t mourn, he just moved on. Ross, like his sister, is obsessive, but also stubborn. He seemed to want so badly to prove that the break-ups were never his fault. Ross, you said the wrong name at the alter. That one was clearly your fault, bro.
When you’re going through a break-up, it’s important to do what works for you. Some people like to indulge in activities (remember Monica’s jam plan?) so they can keep their mind busy. Other people need to be sad for a while. Go at your own pace. Everyone mends a broken heart differently.
12 Exes Will Pop Up At The Worst Time
You are never in the clear. Ever. Exes pop up when you least expect it. It’s the laws of physics. Once you’re over someone, once you’ve stopped thinking about someone – BOOM – there they are. It’s just how it works.
We cannot even count on our hands how many times Chandler bumped into Janice. Girlfriend was always there. Chandler went through a phase where bumping into her usually meant getting back together with her. When Chandler started dating Monica, he didn't get back together with her but Janice still popped up. She was even there when Rachel gave birth! The biggest ex pop-up on Friends was David, Phoebe’s ex who went to Minsk. He returned years later when Phoebe was happily dating Mike Hannigan, aka Paul Rudd. This caused Phoebe to question her feelings, but in the end, she ended up with Paul Rudd.
The best lesson from Phoebe and Chandler’s handling of their exes is that you shouldn’t allow an ex to affect your new relationship. Yes, your ex will pop up in your life, but don’t let them confuse you. Things are over and you’re happily in a relationship with someone else now.
11 Say The Right Name At The Alter
I mean, duh. Actually, it shouldn’t necessarily be a lesson since it’s just common sense, but we threw it in just in case.
When Ross marries Emily after a whirlwind courtship, he says, “I, Ross, take thee, Rachel.” Y’know, he says Rachel instead of Emily. He laughs this off and tries to reconcile with Emily after the wedding, but girlfriend is not having it. For the record, most people wouldn’t be down with someone saying a different name at the alter. That’s 100% a deal breaker. If you bought The Book of Deal Breakers, that would be listed as #1.
While you should, obviously, say the right name at the alter, you should also make sure you’re marrying the right person. One of the reasons that Ross slipped up and said Rachel was because he was still in love with her. If your heart is elsewhere, you shouldn’t be getting married.
10 Always Get Off The Plane
In the series finale, Rachel is off to Paris to work for Louis Vuitton. Hello, dream job – especially for Rachel Green. When she said her goodbyes, one person was especially hard to say goodbye to and that was Ross. The whole totally-still-in-love thing was obviously a pretty big factor. Ross, then, chases her down at the airport and tells her to stay. Despite the romantic gesture, Rachel insists that she has to go… to Paris… for Louis Vuitton. Have we said that this was the best job in the world yet? Because it was.
When Ross gets back to his apartment, he has a voicemail from Rachel in which she debates getting off the plane. In a scene that will make any fan cry, she’s there. She got off the plane. They are back together. It is a Friends miracle! The break is finally over!
The lesson here is to leap for love. Yes, it was Paris and Louis Vuitton. We can’t believe we’re going to say this, but jobs come and go, even jobs as cool as that one. The love of your life happens once. Get off the plane for him.
9 Relationships Are Complicated
The relationships on Friends were not black and white. In fact, there was a lot of grey going on. Being that this was on in the ‘90s and there was a lot of change going on in America, this was awesome to see translated to the screen.
Ross’ relationship with his ex-wife Carol and her wife Susan was strained, but the trio made if work for the sake of Ben. Ross and Susan even became almost-friends during the course of the series. Those were some seriously complicated relationships. There were also a few other complicated relationships. After Chandler kissed Kathy and expressed his feelings for her, Joey was then okay with Chandler dating her. Let's all clap for Joey being such a big person. Not many people would be okay with their best friend dating their ex. Monica fell for her father's friend, Dr. Richard Burke. There was also the fact that Chandler dated and married his best friend’s little sister, aka Monica. Oh, and Rachel dated her best friend's older brother, aka Ross. These relationships are all complicated AF.
Friends reminded us that we never know where we’re going to find love, or how we’re going to lose love. Relationships are complicated in that way, but they are always worth it.
8 If You're Not On The Same Page, It Won't Work
This might be the hardest Friends lesson of all. Monica and Richard were in love, and quite frankly, it would be hard not to fall in love with Richard. He was smart, successful, mature and very dashing. He had a James Bond thing going for himself. There was nothing that could pull this couple apart, except for the fact that they were on completely different pages. Richard had already been married and had children. Monica, on the other hand, had yet to experience these things and very much wanted to. She was not willing to forego those experiences in order to be with him, and so they broke up.
Seasons later, when Chandler is just about to propose to Monica, she runs into Richard, who tells her that he would be willing to get married and have those experiences in order to get her back. His biggest regret was losing her. (Is anyone else crying right now?) By this point, Monica was with Chandler and Richard’s remarks were in vain. Oh, the agony.
The lesson is that if you aren’t on the same page, it won’t work, no matter how much you love each other. It's a painful lesson, but it's true. Love doesn't conquer all - or at least it didn't for Richard and Monica.
7 You May Fall For The Worst Person (But It Will Be Okay)
Ugh, we’re going to have to address this even though we hated it. Nobody, and I mean nobody, enjoyed that dreaded moment in time when Joey and Rachel were a thing. Unlike the Kathy situation, in which Chandler dated Kathy after Joey dated Kathy, this just seemed so… wrong. Rachel and Ross were obviously meant to be together, so Joey going there with Rachel crossed the line.
To be honest, the Rachel/Joey relationship took much longer to develop than it took to play out. Rachel and Joey both harbored feelings for one another for a period of time before acting on them. When they did act on them, it didn’t last all that long, which was a good thing for viewers.
While they weren’t end game, they felt something for each other and had to act on that. Even if you’re a hardcore Ross and Rachel fan you have to appreciate the urge to act on your feelings. Sometimes in life, you’ll have feelings for the worst person and that’s okay. It happens to all of us, but like with Rachel and Joey, it all works out in the end.
6 Playing Games Is Never The Way To Go
Of the group, Rachel was the biggest game player of all. Joey was always upfront and usually got what he wanted with a simple, “How you doin’?” Ross and Chandler lacked relationship skills in their own ways. While Chandler was a commitment-phobe, Ross was all about that married life. Phoebe played her own games, but she was always so out there that we were never really sure what kind of games she was playing. And, finally, Monica was pretty straightforward with the guys she was with. Rachel was the one who was all about playing the dating games.
The two largest examples of Rachel’s game playing were with Joshua, Rachel’s work crush, and Danny, the Yeti in their apartment complex. In both cases, Rachel spent a lot of time in the crushing stage before making the leap to the dating stage. Both relationships fizzled out for different reasons and, had Rachel not played games, she wouldn’t have wasted so much time on guys with whom she didn’t deeply connect.
Skip the games. It wastes your precious time. Be direct and ask, "How you doin'?"
5 Never Completely Rule Someone Out
Leading up to Chandler and Monica’s relationship, Monica had told Chandler that she would never date him, not even if he was the last guy on Earth. Of course, that ends up not being true, but there were plenty of reasons for them to rule one another out in terms of dating. In a flashback, Chandler had made fun of Monica’s overweight body and Monica had overheard him, that's reason enough not to ever date someone. But, they both had an open mind and were able to get past their pasts. People grow up and become, hopefully, better people than they once were.
In this lesson, our favorite Friends couple would have never been had they judged each other on the past. Oh, and on this same note, Rachel gets over the fact that Ross was, and still is, a dino geek. Don’t let someone’s past or one little detail make you rule them completely out. Give everyone a chance. You never know what kind of amazing love you could find.
4 Go At Your Own Pace
Every relationship goes at its own pace and there is no better example of that than Chandler and Monica. When Chandler and Monica were in Las Vegas, they had a great time gambling, during which Monica bet they would get married if she rolled the right number… and then she rolled the right number. So, they were going to get married! All of the signs were there. An elevator even opened up to a priest standing in front of Chandler and Monica, basically like a marriage ceremony. Chandler carried Monica over a threshold. Like we said, all the signs.
Finally, Chandler and Monica finally agreed that they weren’t ready for marriage. They were, however, ready to live together, which is still a big step. Even though they loved each other and all the signs were there, they were brave enough to slow the relationship down. This is a great lesson. Sometimes when we meet the right person, we want to get married right away. I mean, you've been dating the wrong guys forever so finding the right guy can make you want to lock it down. If you are going to spend forever with someone, though, there is no rush. Go at your own pace.
3 You CAN Be Friends With An Ex
This lesson is a little bit complicated, since Ross and Rachel were never just friends. They were end game, always and forever. However, there is a lesson hidden in this since Ross and Rachel dated and broke up when Ross cheated on Rachel. There was an awkward and painful period, during which they really couldn’t be in the same room. That’s understandable, y'know because Ross cheated on Rachel. But, they did work through it. They forged a friendship that was somewhat free of sexual tension. They even had a baby together, all while remaining just friends. Since Ross and Rachel do end up together, the better example may be Rachel and Joey. This duo hooks up, with both Rachel and Joey seeming very smitten. But, then the relationship fizzles and they find a way to save their precious friendship.
If you had a relationship with someone, that doesn’t have to end because the romantic relationship ended. Finding a way to translate a romantic relationship into a friendship can be endlessly rewarding. There is no need to completely exile someone from your life just because the romantic relationship didn't work.
2 Sometimes, The Most Rewarding Relationships Are Friendships
We spoke about the importance of translating romantic relationships into friendships in the last item, but this point is all about friendships. While romantic relationships are great, it’s the friendships that sometimes last the longest. Our best friends are the ones who are there through the good and the bad. They see us through our worst break-ups and get excited for all of our good dates. We tend to put such weight on romantic relationships and forget that friendships are just as important for leading a well-balanced life. I mean, if Ross didn't have his friends, who would he have turned to through all of his divorces?
One of the majorly important things to remember is not to ditch your girls for a new relationship. When you invest all of your time in a relationship, your friendships will diminish. Spend time nurturing both your romances and friendships. There are times when a BFF can give you things that a boyfriend simply can’t give you. While boyfriends are great, besties understand the importance of wine and binge-watching Friends together.
1 Just Never Go On A Break
We’re going to revise the previous point. We said that you should define the terms of your break. We changed our minds. In all honestly, you should just never, ever, ever go on a break.
Even if you define the terms of your break, taking a ‘break’ from a relationship is still gambling with said relationship. If you think taking two months apart to date around a little and find yourself is what you need, maybe you need a new relationship. Relationships shouldn’t be something from which you need a break. Instead, they should enrich your life. The urge for a break is most likely the urge to break up.
See? We’ve learned so much about relationships from Friends. Watching the series over, and over, and over again wasn’t actually a waste of time. It was completely informative! Now, we all know not to take a break and not to say the wrong name at the alter. Boom, the more you know, right?