Friends is the TV show you can watch many, many times and still laugh whole-heartedly at their jokes like it was the first time you’d heard it. You can still cry every time you see Phoebe say goodbye to David, when Chandler says his vows to Monica, and when Rachel tells Ross that he’s a totally different person to her now (most fans just skip watching that episode all together because it’s too painful). But Friends didn’t just offer me laughter and tears. It taught me a lot about life and love. And below are just a few examples of what this beautiful show taught me about relationships.
1. Monica and Paul, The Wine Guy (Season 1) — “What does that mean? Does he sell it, drink it, or he just complains a lot?”
When you have a crush on someone, it’s easy to be taken in by everything they tell you when they finally ask you out. Always remember that while you may have a policy to never lie, others may not. Take things with a pinch of salt until you’ve got a deeper connection with the other and feel more comfortable with them. Remembering this will come in handy if you decide to sleep with them on the first date and learn the next day that they used the same ‘line’ on someone else.
2. Rachel and Paolo (Season 1) — “The weenie from Turinie” as Ross would say.
Here’s the relationship that had sparks flying all over the place but never landed anywhere solid. Sparks are good, really. They give you all kinds of juicy feelings. But as Ross said just before Rachel met Paolo, “Passion is way overrated. Eventually, it kind of burns out. But hopefully what you’re left with is trust and security. And in the case of my ex-wife, lesbianism.” Let’s ignore that last part for this case. When all you can see is sparks with someone take a moment to simmer down and see what else is there. Don’t rush to more feelings before you know what’s going on under all the passion.
3. Rachel and Barry (Season 1) — The orthodontist who thought it was funny to dress up as a regular dentist for Halloween.
It’s so easy to settle for a relationship you don’t deserve, isn’t it? It is so much harder to walk out of your comfort zone and start afresh. But Rachel did, and thank goodness for that too, otherwise we’d never have seen the next 10 years of her life. Sometimes we don’t notice when we’re in a relationship that’s causing us to fade, that isn’t allowing us to become all we can be. But when you do notice, hopefully not on your wedding day, you have to make a drastic change. It could be to gather your courage to talk to your partner about the way you feel and ask them to help you explore yourself or it could be to break off the bond that is dragging you down and rise to the challenge of bettering yourself. Either way, remember that you’re not stuck and you’re not alone. You will always find the support you need from friends, family or others. It’s never too late.
4. Monica and Richard (Season 2) — The ridiculously sexy ophthalmologist, best friend of Monica’s dad.
What is age to you? Is it just a number, an indication of one’s level of maturity or a ticking time bomb? For Monica and Richard, it was just a number. They fell passionately in love and dated despite the reactions they got from the people around them (“Who’s Richard Burke? Dr. Burke? You have a date with Dr. Burke? Why? Why? Why should that bother me? I love that man. He’s like a brother to Dad.”) There are always going to be certain things about the person you love that others look at with critical and judgmental eyes. You could also have trouble accepting these things in the beginning too. (Monica: “I don’t think so. I mean, like, he’s a grown up!” Richard: “I mean, hell, I’m a whole person who can drink older than you.”) But sometimes, these ‘big’ things really don’t matter. Age is just a number. How well you connect with each other is what actually matters.
Speaking of big issues, this relationship ended because of the different outlooks they had for their future together. Every time I see the scene in which they break up, I wonder why they never talked about having kids together before. It used to be that when a couple got together and stayed together, there was an unspoken expectation of marriage and kids. But with the number of lifestyle choices we have now, one really never knows. A couple could not get married but have kids, get married and not have kids, adopt children together but not be a couple…the combinations go on. Your future together as a couple is important. If you look at this person and see your partner in life, then firstly, don’t assume that they want the same future as you do, and secondly, don’t be afraid to ask them what they want no matter how long (or short) you guys have been together. You are two individuals with different ideas, and that’s okay. What matters is how you work together with these different ideas. As partners, there has to be communication and compromise. Sometimes though, things don’t work out. It will be devastating and horrible, but it will work out for the best. BUT, if this is the person you love, don’t wait for 3 years to tell them you’ll compromise because by then, they would have moved on and you would still be stuck in the past.
5. Ross and Rachel (Season 1-10) — “He’s her lobster!”
Ah, the famous will-they-won’t-they couple that everyone rooted for for 10 years (or however long it took you to watch all 10 seasons). I know there are about 10 thousand things we could discuss about this relationship (“WE WERE ON A BREAK”), but let’s talk about the one that broke them up in Season 3.
Don’t bring your old baggage to your new relationship — “Is this about Mark?” It’s tempting, I know. After all, you were hurt once and it could happen again. But every time you think the past is repeating itself, take a deep breath, and think again. Arriving prematurely at conclusions and not trusting your new partner will damage the relationship. You won’t be able to see your partner for who they really are and what they’re doing to help you with your baggage. All you’ll see is the web of lies your paranoid brain has built. If after the calm moment of thinking, you still feel there’s something going on, don’t do anything crazy like stalking your partner or sleeping with someone else. Find and stay with friends who will make sure you don’t do anything to jeopardize the relationship while trying to figure out what’s going on. Then go talk to your partner about how you feel and work together to figure out a solution.
6. Chandler and Janice (Season 3) — “Oh. My. God.” Need I say more?
How do you let go of someone you love willingly? Can the knowledge that breaking up is what’s best for them really help you let go of that special person? This couple broke up 5 times in the course of 10 years (Remember Yemen?) but the 4th time is what really pulls at my heart strings. Watching Chandler hanging on to the only thing he had left of her, her shoe, was heartbreaking. Yes, he knew that she should be a part of a family with her husband and baby; Yes, he knew that he couldn’t be the guy that breaks up a child’s family, like the house boy. But that didn’t mean he could just let go. The phrase ‘If you loved someone, you’d let them go’ holds true. But watching that person walk out of your life will break your heart. And mending your broken heart may mean that you close your heart off to them. So the other half of the phrase, ‘If it’s meant to be, they’ll come back’ needs to change and account for what happens in reality — ‘When they come back in your life, you’ll be a different person, and you’ll be able to decide whether to be with them or stay apart from them without your heart breaking this time.’ You’re right, that’s too long. We’ll figure it out.
7. Monica and Pete (Season 3) — The millionaire/billionaire/zillionaire (it was never established) who invented MOS 865 and wanted to be the Ultimate Fighting Champion.
It’s easy to write off someone you don’t have an instant attraction to. In this day and age of instant-everything, we expect the universe will show us ‘the one’ by sending sparks the minute we see this person. But, as you probably already know, it doesn’t happen that way in reality. When you have a good mental and emotional connection with someone but have “like zip going on”, don’t fret and don’t immediately dismiss them. Give it some time. Physical attraction can be tricky sometimes when sparks don’t go flying the minute you two meet. But growing together emotionally, having stimulating intellectual discussions and learning to first be comfortable with each other, can help get you two to the crazy monkey sex.
8. Chandler and Kathy (Season 4) — The actress who also worked for a medical company that experimented on hamsters.
Never, I repeat, never, use a person’s past against them in a fight. When your significant other opens up to you about things they’ve been through in the past or things they’re ashamed of having done in the past, your job is to be accepting and understanding. The whole point of opening up to someone is to show how much you trust them and are comfortable with them. If they open up to you and you judge them, then, sad to say, you’re quite the ass. You’ve broken the trust of someone who thought you were special enough to open up to. If, in Chandler’s case, you use their past against them in a fight, you’ve not only broken their trust, shamed and hurt them, you’ve also ensured they have no equal ground in this fight. You’ve won, dirtily. Now how do you move on from that?
9. Ross and Emily (Season 4-5) — “I, Ross, take thee Rachel…Emily! Emily.”
How do you know when you’re moving too fast in a relationship? Your friends and family can say that you are, but they could be wrong. After all, if you feel that it’s right, it’s right, isn’t it? And if the other person feels like it’s right, it has to be right, right? But what happens if everything feels right and goes right for a while before turning horribly, horribly wrong? We live in a world where people believe ‘The Lobster’ exists so it seems justified when we move fast in a relationship with whom we believe is ‘The Lobster’. But before you label this person ‘The Lobster’ and dismiss everyone’s concerns, just think about this — How often do you meet your lobster? Once. And how likely is it that this person is that one? One in six billion. The odds are there, you can’t hide from that low statistic. So take a week to be alone, away from the relationship, away from the questioning people. Think carefully about the concerns raised and don’t dismiss any of them until you’re sure that you’re okay with the issue. One of two things will happen after this week; your relationship will either be strengthened as you both go into it with eyes wide open because you’ve decided to conquer all the potential problem issues together, or you’ll discover a minefield that will kill your relationship and thank goodness you saw it before you spent good money on a London wedding like Ross unfortunately did.
10. Monica and Chandler (Season 5-10) — “My best friend and my sister, I cannot believe this!”
Oh boy, did the creators and writers nail this relationship. The beautiful mix of friendship and romance brought a strong foundation of steadfast support for each other, a comical sense of understanding for each other and the knowledge that these two things can help get them through any hurdles like “weird relationship commitment crap”, a long-distance relationship, smoking, being unable to conceive naturally, adoption, and moving to Westchester, “the worst of the Chesters”. It takes time to build this kind of a relationship, however. Mr. and Mrs. Bing weren’t built in a day. What I loved about this relationship was that it was no ‘lobster theory’ that held them together but how they worked hard at the relationship together that did. Just remember that as each hurdle comes, it will go with mutual understanding and support for each other. There’s a time to talk about issues to make sure both parties understand the other’s position and then move forward, and there’s a time to let go of them because holding on would just be detrimental to the relationship. We’ll all find our Miss Chanandler Bong sooner or later.
11. Joey and Rachel (Season 8-10) — “I love you”, “Love you too.”
This definitely seemed to be a weird combination from the moment Joey realized his ‘date’ with Rachel seemed to be so much more than that. Joey and Rachel were such good friends and roommates that it wasn’t long before that chemistry led to one or the other feeling something more than friendship for the other. After some ill timing from both sides, pregnancy and dating paleontologists-wise, they both finally ended up together. But…something was off. They couldn’t seem to cross the physical intimacy line whether they had a really good (unpaid) date or they tried to “power through.” Sometimes friendships turn into beautiful relationships like Monica’s and Chandler’s did. But sometimes, even with the right timing, the chemistry just isn’t enough to bring two great friends together as a couple. When that happens, one should remember, just as Joey and Rachel did, that there is still great love there and it’s important to continue to preserve that. Don’t let this hurdle ruin a great friendship.
12. Phoebe and Mike (Season 9-10) — Princess Consuela Banana Hammock, or Valerie, and Mister Crap Bag.
“Phoebe, I love you. I’ve missed you so much these last few months. I thought we were apart for a good reason but then I suddenly realized there was no reason good enough to keep me from spending the rest of my life with you. You’re the most incredible woman I’ve ever met. How could I lose you?”
Mike pretty much summed it up in this beautiful statement. As individuals, we all have our stands on certain issues because of personal beliefs or past experiences. They define who we are. It’s important to know which to hold on to and which to let go of in a relationship. There are many things we shouldn’t compromise on because that would mean changing who we are. But there are just as many things that you should compromise on because relationships require compromise to work. So how do you know the difference? Just ask yourself, as Mike did, is it a good enough reason to keep you two apart?