5 warning signs you could be the next Ross and Rachel
Is your love life giving you whiplash? As Friends prepares to hit Binge this week, psychologist Jacqui Manning considers how a few of the beloved sitcom couple’s most toxic traits can serve as a warning sign for viewers…
The journey of Friends’ Ross and Rachel was a long one – a decade, to be specific. Viewers rode the ups and downs of their friendship, romantic relationship, break-ups, flings, parenthood and finally their reconciliation, ending with what would hopefully be a mature and stable relationship.
As well as making for good TV, their turbulent ride also highlighted the difficulties of an on-again, off-again romance. Here are five signs you may be dealing with the same scenario, and what you can learn from their mistakes.
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1. You don’t communicate
Ross and Rachel frequently made assumptions about what the other was thinking or feeling, which created misunderstandings, upsets and ultimately separations. When they went on their infamous “break”, if they had identified specifically what this meant, they could have avoided a world of pain.
Being clear with each other, even when the message is not a positive one, is a sign of a healthy relationship. Stating your needs or feelings using “I” statements and then checking in to see if the other person has understood your meaning can avoid misunderstandings and ultimately a lot of pain.
2. You’re not always honest
The effects of not being candid with other people are far worse than the effects of being upfront. Relationships suffer without honesty. People often hold back because they don’t want to hurt their partner, but the pain when the truth comes out is then compounded by the deceit. It’s much braver, cleaner and more respectful to be truthful.
Take, for example, when Ross and Rachel got married in Las Vegas. They both woke up feeling regretful and mortified, and wanted to end the marriage immediately. Since ending the marriage would have signalled the third divorce for Ross, he felt ashamed, so he told Rachel he had taken care of it when he hadn’t. This breach of honesty caused Rachel to feel enough anger that it broke their friendship for a period of time.
3. You don’t have clear boundaries
Ross and Rachel’s big fight – the one that put them on their “break” – was the result of Ross’ turning up at Rachel’s office with a picnic after she cancelled their date because of having to deal with a crisis at work.
Although this could seem like a romantic and thoughtful gesture, it was actually the opposite. In fact, it demonstrated that Ross’ neediness led him to do whatever he wanted without taking Rachel’s needs into account, further increasing her stress levels. If Ross had been more respectful of Rachel’s boundaries – which were stated very clearly – and dealt with his disappointment to their change in plans in a mature and healthy way, the outcome would have been very different.
4. You don’t trust each other
Constantly watching your partner for signs of flirtation when there are no grounds for mistrust can be a sign of your own insecurities and a low self-esteem. Perhaps you’ve been hurt in the past; these behaviours can be understandable if you’re still healing. However, if these feelings aren’t resolved, they often lead to resentment and bitterness, and a breakdown of connection within your new romantic relationship.
Ross’ lack of confidence in himself and his relationships caused him to feel unsure and insecure, and never more so than after their big fight. The pre-existing jealousy over one of Rachel’s co-workers exacerbated his emotions, and when he discovered Rachel was talking to this co-worker for comfort after their fight, Ross had a fling with Chloe. And it was this that ultimately led to the end of Ross and Rachel’s romance – well, that time!
To avoid this situation in your own love life, discuss with your partner how you can build healthy trust patterns and be mindful that your past experiences are exactly that: past experiences.
5. You keep score
Ross and Rachel both had stubborn streaks and relished being right in every argument, often on petty points and technicalities, losing sight of what was most important – their love for each other. If they had focused more on listening to why the other person was hurt rather than building up their own cases, they may have learnt more about the other person and had their own needs met more, too. Sometimes in life you need to ask yourself “Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?” and learn to fight only the truly important battles.
Still wondering if you should stay or go? Keep in mind that ultimately, Ross and Rachel got their happy ending. But these types of on-again, off-again relationships can be tricky to navigate if both parties remain stuck in past transgressions and patterns. Timing plays a role in any relationship, so if you have a Ross and Rachel situation, and you believe it’s got potential, learn from their mistakes and see if yours can thrive.
Three more things Friends can teach you about relationships…
1. Nurture your friendships
Our friendships are sometimes the longest relationships we have, and the six main characters of Friends (which begins streaming on Binge from September 17) show us just how important these bonds are. The best types of friends live through your heartbreaks and happy-heart moments with you. We can put all our energy and time into romantic relationships and forget that friendships are crucial for a well-balanced life. But we all need our “tribe”, so be mindful of spending time nurturing both your romantic relationships and your friendships.
2. Never rule anyone out
Before Monica and Chandler got together (and happily married), she told him they’d never date, even if he was the last man on Earth. Of course, that changed and they became the most solid and happy relationship on the show. While you can’t manufacture feelings for someone, there may be opportunities for romantic connections with people around you that you haven’t considered yet.
3. If you’re not on the same page, it won’t work
Many people get into or stay in relationships for the potential they can see or hope for, but in the case of Monica and Richard, love wasn’t enough. She wanted children, but that phase in his life had passed for him, so the painful truth had to be acknowledged and acted upon. Sometimes differences can be overcome, and patience and discussion can lead to mutual happiness (think of Phoebe and Mike getting married when he initially didn’t want to). But when we are talking about major life goals not being shared, this cannot be ignored.
Follow Jacqui on Instagram @thefriendlypsychologist.