In the nearly fifteen years since it has gone off air, Friends has consistently shown that a series doesn't need to be new to stay relevant and beloved.
With new viewers of all ages flocking to the series thanks to Netflix and reruns on countless television stations, as well as long-time fans staying as devoted as ever, the series continues to be discussed more than most sitcoms, both for its good and bad qualities.
More than any other television show to date, Friends has been frequently discussed for the relatability of its characters, as they struggle to navigate life, love, and jobs in their twenties and thirties.
While they’re hardly a true representation of reality, considering their socioeconomic class and uniform race and culture, viewers nevertheless cling to these characters as beloved icons and inspirations.
While the series may have billed itself as a show about friendship, and rightfully so, there’s no way of overlooking the fact that the characters’ ongoing pursuit of love was often far more central a plot than any significant friendship developments.
Ten seasons is a long time for a show to try and find each of its core characters their perfect match, so literal hundreds of characters came and went.
While a select few relationships were surefire winners, some of them were the very definition of a bad idea from the very beginning.
Here are the 15 Couples That Hurt Friends (And 5 That Saved It).
20 Hurt: Joey and Ursula
It can always make for an awkward situation when friends date each other's relatives.
It happens various times over the course of Friends – some of the core group even wind up with each other's siblings, after all – but there were a few instances throughout the series that were worse ideas than others.
Perhaps the worst of them all was the brief period of time in which Joey decided to date Phoebe's twin sister, Ursula.
Ursula was always a menace, careless and clueless and just shy of constantly cruel, and so to have her become closely wound up within the group led to real tension between Joey and Phoebe, who always had one of the strongest and warmest bonds out of the entire group.
19 Hurt: Gavin and Rachel
Sitcoms generally tend to struggle when a character is pregnant and struggle even more so when a newborn baby enters the cast of characters.
Unfortunately, Friends is no exception to this fault, and its failure to know how to handle Rachel’s transition from new mother to working mother led to one of the worst developed – albeit thankfully brief – romances the series attempted.
When Rachel returns to work after giving birth to Emma, she finds that she has had her job taken over by an arrogant, sexist jerk, Dermot Mulroney’s Gavin Mitchell.
Somehow, over the course of a couple episodes, their genuine distaste for one another is forced to turn into romantic attraction – because of course it is – before thankfully, it all fizzles out before it could even truly begin.
18 Hurt: Joey and Janine
It’s certainly not a guarantee that all friends are going to like each other’s significant others, and vice versa.
However, it can make for some particularly awkward storytelling when a character’s only redeeming factor is their physical appearance, and the show makes no qualms of hiding this fact.
Joey is incredibly attracted to his brief roommate, Janine, portrayed by supermodel Elle Macpherson.
Janine is never given much of a chance to grow as a character, except for the introduction of the one key flaw that the show could clearly not abide: she hates both Chandler and Monica and refuses to spend any time with them.
As this is the show where your friends will always be there for you, there was no way that Janine could stick around.
17 Saved: David and Phoebe
It was always going to be quite the difficult task for the show to find someone who would be perfectly suited for Phoebe’s weirdness, but they managed to do just that on two different occasions, with two characters who couldn’t have represented more different approaches.
First, there was David, played with zany weirdness by Hank Azaria, a scientist who was romantic and nerdy and just as strange as Phoebe in so many ways.
Their relationship really seems like it could have been something grander and longer – and Phoebe herself admits that she would have accepted his marriage proposal, had he been allowed to make it.
However, for what their relationship was, and the brevity of its duration, it was clear that he was the first real guy to make an impact on Phoebe, and one that changed her for the better at that.
16 Hurt: Gary and Phoebe
Someone who didn’t have such a great influence on Phoebe, however, was her boyfriend Gary.
Their first meeting was hardly a preview of better things to come – she had found his police badge and was fraudulently using it to claim that she was a police officer – but somehow, their relationship did go on to become pretty serious in a very short period of time.
They became so serious, in fact, that Phoebe even moved in with him… for a single day that would in turn lead to the end of their relationship.
Gary’s willingness to shoot a bird for making too much noise too early in the morning clearly wouldn’t jive with Phoebe’s down to earth environmentalist way of life.
15 Hurt: Ross and Elizabeth
It’s not every day that you find a show that introduces not one, but two horrible relationships at the same time – two relationships that are entirely interconnected at that.
However, somehow, Friends managed to pull off this awful feat, when it paired Professor Ross Geller with one of his young undergraduate students, Elizabeth.
Her crush on him was played for laughs at first, especially when Ross had been duped into changing another student’s grade because they lied about having a crush on him.
However, the humor ended there as the show decided to pair them together romantically for a few episodes, featuring plots that included them flaunting their relationship in front of fellow faculty members (despite university regulations) and Ross struggling to be okay with Elizabeth having a social group consisting of, you know, guys her own age.
14 Hurt: Paul and Rachel
While the relationship between Ross and Elizabeth may have reflected an early midlife crisis on Ross’s part, it brought with it a potential midlife crisis of another kind entirely by introducing Elizabeth’s father, Paul.
As played by Bruce Willis, Paul was a mess of a character, struggling with emotions and overprotectiveness all while trying to navigate a relationship with the much younger Rachel.
All the while, as he himself engaged in this relationship with Rachel, he mostly functioned as a looming threat over the already questionable Ross and Elizabeth relationship.
As such, the relationship between Paul and Rachel never once felt entirely believable, even as it climaxed with Paul’s emotional growth and openness at Rachel’s urging.
13 Saved: Ross and Rachel
For all their ups and downs, and regardless of whether you think they were on a break, it’s impossible to deny that Ross and Rachel were one of the most important love stories the series told in its ten-year run, even if not necessarily the best written.
Their relationship hasn’t held up spectacularly over the years, with countless think pieces having been written that debate whether they should have been in a relationship at all to begin with.
However, there’s still something inherently sweet about them that you can’t help but root for. Putting all the baggage and drama aside, at the end of the day, the best friend and the best friend’s brother fell in love with each other and created a family.
They found their lobsters in each other, choosing each other over everyone else – and even a dream career.
Just ignore the entire drama about being on a break, and you’ve got a pretty solid love story.
12 Hurt: Ross and Janice
Sometimes, it’s clear that a show puts two characters together only because of the drama – or, in this case, cringe-inducing awkwardness – that it will produce.
Janice is one of the most iconic characters to come out of the entire series, arguably one of the most important secondary players as well.
And so, when a distressed Ross has a one-night stand upon learning his ex is now getting married, who else could he have possibly turned to as part of this night of poor decisions?
The reaction of the group of friends to Ross’s choice of partner makes the entire bad idea of a plot entirely worth it. But thankfully, it never goes beyond that one brief blip of bad decisions.
11 Hurt: Pete and Monica
Monica didn’t have very many serious relationships, but she was lucky to have at least two very good ones. Her relationship with billionaire Pete Becker, however, was not among the good ones.
From the very beginning, it was clear that the relationship was exploitative in nature, as Pete used his money to leverage his way into Monica’s heart, whether she admitted it or not.
His pipe dream of becoming an ultimate fighting champion also revealed a level of immaturity that the obsessive, success-driven Monica could never have put up with for very long.
So even when Pete tries to win Monica over with grand romantic gesture after gesture, it’s clear that this is a relationship that was never meant to last.
10 Hurt: Chandler and Janice
If a relationship is so bad that you run away to Yemen to avoid breaking up with the person, that pretty much says it all right there, doesn’t it?
For better or worse, the relationship between Janice Litman Goralnik and Chandler Bing was one of Chandler’s longest running storylines, even after they had separated. Janice always seemed to know how to show up at just the wrong times and never seemed to really get over Chandler either.
But their fundamental lack of compatibility led to countless awkward moments, including the reveal that Chandler’s ostensible best friend, Joey, couldn’t stand her.
Just as it was a problem when Joey’s girlfriend hated Chandler, it should have been a sign that Joey hated Janice.
Their relationship was never going to work, considering its dubious beginnings, but the series never shied away from playing with it, even long after it should have stopped.
9 Saved: Richard and Monica
Hard as it may be to admit, on some occasions, it’s pretty easy to see that Richard may have been a better choice for Monica.
Despite their age difference, Richard having been best friends with Monica’s father, and their eventual realization that they wanted different things, Richard and Monica had a truly wonderful, loving, supportive relationship.
It was Monica’s first real big love story, one that clearly affected her and forced her to reconcile with herself and her own shortcomings and dreams.
While the show had plenty of fun mocking their age difference, Monica always was the most mature of the girls, so in many ways, the show is able to get away with it.
If they could have stayed in the present forever, their relationship may have continued to be perfect.
However, with the future ahead of them, they realized that things just would never work in the long run, no matter how much they wanted them to.
8 Hurt: Julie and Ross
It’s hard to grow attached to a character who’s only ever used as a love interest, even when a show attempts to grow them beyond that only to fail spectacularly.
When Ross returns home from his trip with a new girlfriend in tow, Julie never has a fair chance at being a character on her own: she’s already been defined by her relationship to Ross, and her subversion of the audience expectation and hope that Rachel will be able to tell Ross her feelings for him.
So when the show tries to forge a friendship between Julie and Monica, that once again fails because her friendship with Monica is only an issue because of the fact that Rachel – her romantic rival – will not approve.
In addition, Ross and Julie never seem to have any real connection, or chemistry, and the show thankfully backs down before investing too much time in them.
7 Hurt: Rachel and Joshua
Even characters as smooth and confident as Rachel Green have their days where they just make a mess.
We guess that was the point of the awkward flirtation between Rachel and Joshua, the man she met while working at Bloomingdale’s.
She finds herself attracted to him and completely humiliates herself time and again going to great lengths to win his affection.
It’s entirely out of character for Rachel, who almost always gets what she wants without having to stoop that low.
The way in which their relationship – scarcely long enough to merit calling it a relationship – reaches its end also highlights the fact that their connection was, in effect, the series buying time and spinning its wheels.
Rachel feels anxious about Ross’s impending wedding to Emily and frightens Joshua off by making him think she wants a more serious, lifelong commitment – all while she’s wearing a wedding dress, because why not?
6 Hurt: Rachel and Paolo
If ever there were a relationship in this series that defined the word “superficial,” this would be the one.
From the very beginning of his arc, Paolo is a walking stereotype, a living and breathing caricature of a lothario.
The girls swoon over him. The men hate him. Rachel falls for him. Ross tries to talk her out of it and urges her to come back to her senses.
Then Paolo proves himself to be a pig, making a pass at Phoebe, because having one member of the group isn’t enough when you’re testosterone personified.
Rachel and Paolo represent one of the many poorly conceived relationships the show only ever used as an obstacle for Ross and Rachel.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with putting roadblocks in the way, it wouldn’t hurt to put a little more effort into the characters either.
5 Saved: Mike and Phoebe
From the moment they meet, in perhaps the most “meet cute” moment of the series, it’s clear that Mike and Phoebe have the potential to be something important.
They make each other laugh, encourage each other, and help each other to grow through fears of commitment and intimacy.
Mike even rejects his own pompous family because of his love of Phoebe, aligning himself with the woman he knows he can’t be without regardless of what his family believes.
When Phoebe changes her name to the ridiculous Princess Consuela Banana Hammock, Mike follows right along by changing his own name to Crap Bag.
He knows how to indulge her, but bring her back to the real world, too. They balance each other perfectly, and while their relationship could have used a little more air time to develop, there’s no denying that they’re made for each other.
4 Hurt: Chandler and Kathy
Some of the most uncomfortable moments of the entire series come when two central characters are at odds with one another due to any kind of reason.
In this case, the fiction that Kathy creates between best pals and roommates Joey and Chandler makes her character instantly infamous. Chandler falls for his best friend’s girlfriend, which is bad enough, but she falls for him, too.
As if that weren’t enough, they indulge themselves with a kiss, something that Joey learns about and has a hard time forgiving Chandler for.
As though that ordeal wasn’t already enough to guarantee their relationship wouldn’t ever get off on the right path, they eventually break up due to Kathy, once again, cheating.
Just as she cheated on Joey to get with Chandler, she cheats on Chandler with her costar in a play, something Chandler himself had long suspected.
3 Hurt: Joey and Rachel
To be fair, the plot during which Joey realizes he’s in love with a very pregnant Rachel is one of the most touching things the show ever did.
A man who is always superficial, judgmental, and self-interested suddenly finds himself dealing with love for one of his good friends, regardless of her current pregnant state.
However, all of the warm and fuzzy feelings that plot creates are undone by the series’ second attempt at making Joey and Rachel a thing.
After Joey views Ross kissing his own ex-girlfriend, he goes after Rachel out of spite – the best foundation for all relationships in television.
Their attempt at a relationship never goes much beyond a few kisses, as they realize that they just don’t feel right together.
However, unfortunately for viewers everywhere, it took a handful of episodes late in the series to figure that out.
2 Hurt: Ross and Emily
Some of the relationships on Friends, unfortunately, portray fairly toxic stereotypes and character traits. Ross is incredibly jealous, and Joey can be a misogynistic, and more.
However, it’s in the relationship between Ross and Emily – and their bizarre choice to get married after knowing each other for so little time – that leads to the most chilling portrayal of an abusive relationship the series ever had.
The moment in which Ross says Rachel’s name during their wedding ceremony is one of the most iconic moments in the entire series.
However, it also sets off a side of Emily that had only been hinted at until that moment.
From then onward, Emily displays controlling, manipulative tendencies, telling Ross that she will only be with him if she cuts Rachel out entirely and if she can know where he is and who he’s with every second of the day.
1 Saved: Chandler and Monica
Sometimes, the best love stories are the ones you never see coming.
Knowing as we know now that Chandler and Monica’s relationship had never been part of the game plan, it’s always fun to watch the earlier seasons and see how things naturally develop on their own.
When two characters are naturally made for each other, it sometimes doesn’t matter what their original intentions may have been. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.
And that’s just the way it was for the hopelessly awkward Chandler Bing and the obsessive perfectionist Monica Geller.
When they finally came together in a moment of loneliness in London, it was clear that it was the beginning of something special.
Fast forward to all those years later, when they get married, and eventually begin a family of their own, and it’s impossible to imagine a version of Friends in which these two never found their way to each other.
Who do you think are the best and worst of the Friends couples? Let us know in the comments!
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