Although it’s been 13 years since Friends aired its series finale, the show remains a pop cultural phenomenon, influencing many other sitcoms.
Nothing is more iconic than Ross and Rachel’s fight and breakup in the season three episodes “The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break” and “The One the Morning After”—a fight that continues over the course of the rest of the season, and is brought up throughout the show.
Who can forget the famous five words: “we were on a break!” These words shook the nation-- they were discussed at work water coolers and were fought over among families and groups of friends. They may have even set a precedent for real life couples; cheating significant others probably use the “we were on a break” argument to this day.
The Ross and Rachel were/weren’t debate is yet to be settled to this day. So, with that said, here are the 9 Reasons They Were on a Break (And 5 Reasons They Weren't).
14 They Were: Rachel didn’t respect Ross’ feelings about Mark
Mark was first introduced in “The One Where Chandler Can’t Remember Which Sister” episode. He meets Rachel at the diner where Monica works, and offers to get her an interview at Bloomingdale’s.
As soon as Ross learns about him, he questions Mark’s motives, insinuating that the only reason why Mark helped Rachel get the job was because of his attraction to her.
Eventually Rachel gets the job and begins working with Mark, and Ross becomes concerned about their growing friendship. Ross could have taken a step back, and realized that he trusted Rachel, but, on the other hand, Rachel seems oblivious to the situation and refuses to admit that perhaps Mark (obviously) has feelings for her.
Rachel also never takes Ross’ feelings into account regarding Mark, brushing off Ross’ concerns while she hangs out with Mark, gets lunch with him her first day of work, and casually flirts with him, blatantly ignoring Ross' worries.
It’s as if she has forgotten that Ross is divorced, and that his ex-wife cheated on him. Rachel’s inconsideration only grows, increasing Ross’ jealousy and driving a wedge between the two of them.
13 They Were: They were already growing apart
In “The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break” episode, Ross tells Rachel he feels like he’s losing her, and that she’s “slipping away.” Ever since she took the job at Bloomingdale’s, she’s been completely focused on work, and hasn’t had any time for him.
She keeps cancelling their plans, coming home late, and is constantly distracted. Although anyone who gets their dream job is going excitedly devote most of their energy to their work, Rachel seems to take him for granted, completely sacrificing her romance for work.
The two can’t seem to see eye to eye on anything-- when they’re together they’re arguing, and when they talk about each other to the rest of the friends, they’re complaining. All of the little things they loved about each other-- and that viewers loved about their relationship-- take a backseat to the tension between them.
When Ross attempts to reconnect with Rachel by attending a lecture with her on fashion, he falls asleep in it, prompting another huge argument.
12 They Weren't: Rachel was stressed about work and Ross didn’t understand
After years of having no direction, Rachel had finally found her calling: fashion. Then, she had a horrible job, serving coffee and untangling hangers at Fortunata Fashions. So, when Mark showed up to save the day and offered her a job— her dream job— of course she was going take him up on his offer.
Once she got the job, Mark was her coworker, so she had to spend time with him, and when work got stressful, Rachel had to give it her all.
Sometimes people have to make temporary sacrifices to reach their goals, and this was one of those times. Ross didn’t understand this, and to Rachel, it felt like he wasn’t respecting her or her dream.
He showed up at work and interrupted her, sent her obnoxious amounts of flowers, and even confronted Mark at her office when he thought Mark had kissed her. Ross embarrassed her, and he didn’t give Rachel support she needed. She was over her head in an entirely new, competitive field. Instead of understanding this, Ross got sullen, sulky, and angry.
11 They Were: Rachel blew off their anniversary
The problems between Ross and Rachel come to a head in “The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break”. It’s their anniversary, and Ross has planned a special night for them, but Rachel has a work disaster and has to cancel last minute.
Ross, trying to salvage the night, brings their anniversary dinner to her at work. Sure, it’s a little annoying to have your boyfriend grinding pepper on your anniversary couscous and accidentally starting a fire with his romantic notion for candles, but his heart was in the right place. He was trying to compromise and say their anniversary night.
Instead of being understanding about Ross’ disappointment, when Rachel returns home from work later that night she blows up at him, telling him that bringing a picnic to her work was highly inappropriate.
10 They Were: Rachel lied about Mark coming over
Mark calls Rachel shortly after her huge fight with Ross, and invites him over. Now, we can give Rachel some slack here, and say that she genuinely didn’t realize that Mark was interested in her. Still, if she genuinely wanted for her and Ross to stay together, then it was a pretty bad idea to invite over the guy that Ross hated the most.
When Ross calls Rachel to talk things out, he hears Mark in the background. Instead of coming clean about the situation, Rachel tries to deny it and cover it up. Lying is really not the best move when you’re trying to fix your relationship.
For Ross, his worst fears have just been realized— the guy who has been trying to get together with his girlfriend for weeks is now alone in her apartment with her. It clearly confirms that they’re not together anymore, and that Rachel has moved on.
9 They Weren't: Ross felt guilty
If Ross really hadn’t done anything wrong, he wouldn’t have felt so guilty about it.
In fact, he was so mired in guilt over his actions in "The One the Morning After" episode that he hid Chloe from Rachel when Rachel came over to make up with him. He then spent the rest of the day running around the city trying to make sure Rachel didn’t find out.
Granted, it was Chandler and Joey’s idea for him to “follow the trail,” but it was Ross who went to Chloe, then to her coworker, then to her coworker’s sister (who was a masseuse with Phoebe), and then to Gunther… although by this point it was too late.
These aren't the actions of a person in the right-- or a person who believes that they are in the right-- instead, they are the actions of a guilty man.
8 They Were: Rachel said they needed to take a break
Sometimes there’s no better argument than the verbatim, especially when it comes to season three's “The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break”.
“I don’t know what to do,” Rachel says to Ross in the episode, "maybe we should just take a break.”
“Fine, let’s take a break, let’s cool off, let’s get some frozen yogurt or something,” Ross replies.
“No, a break from us,” Rachel states.
Ross wanted to fix things; he wanted to talk them out and work through them. However, Rachel was willing to give up because things were becoming too hard-- she wanted to cut and run.
She wasn't the one who worked on their relationship, instead it was Ross who wanted to solve the problems and take the time to figure out the underlining issues. Telling Ross that she wanted a break was Rachel admitting defeat and letting the problems win, thus ending their relationship (or at least temporarily).
7 They Were: Ross wouldn't have slept with someone unless he thought they were done
Ross says it himself in “The One the Morning After” episode: he’s not a cheater. Ross is awkward-- he's a dork, he’s silly, he can be stubborn, and at times he's a bit pretentious and patronizing-- but he’s not a cheater.
In fact, Ross was cheated on by his ex-wife, which traumatized him and deeply affected his future relationships. He would never turn around and do the same to someone else, especially not Rachel.
Ross has a strong moral compass, and very few things would take him off this path. Ross would only ever sleep with someone else if he truly believed that he was single again, and that Rachel and him were over for good.
There’s no way that he would have ever cheated on Rachel, he's far too honest a character.
6 They Weren't: Drinking isn’t an excuse
Ross was heavily intoxicated the night that he slept with Chloe, and, in all honesty, he probably wouldn’t have made this decision if he had been sober.
However, Ross was the one who chose to drink, and, obviously, alcohol is never an excuse for cheating. If he can’t handle his liquor, he shouldn’t be drinking. Lowered inhibitions are often just a way for people to do what they have been subconsciously thinking about doing, and the consequences and penalties for these actions should be the same as when they're sober.
It doesn't matter what his reasons were for drinking, or how heartbroken he was. What Ross did was wrong, and the alcohol doesn’t wipe it out or provide an excuse to hid behind.
5 They Were: Rachel told Monica that they'd broken up
The morning after their fight, Rachel tells Monica that she and Ross broke up. Although she goes to his apartment and they make up— sort of— she clearly believed they had broken up (or were on a break), otherwise she wouldn’t have said anything to Monica about it.
Monica was upset by her news-- so upset, in fact, that when she uses her blender, she presses down on the button so hard that the contents go flying up to the ceiling. When Rachel tells Monica this, she doesn't say that they're "on a break,” instead she says that they “kind of broke up.”
Rachel wouldn’t have told Monica this if she didn’t believe it was true, so Rachel turning around and denying it later rings false.
In fact, in “The One Without a Ski Trip” episode, Rachel discovers that all of the friends agree with Ross, and this is in part due to the fact that Rachel had told them all that they were on a break.
4 They Were: Ross was heartbroken that night
When Ross leaves Rachel’s apartment after their fight, he goes to the party that Joey and Chandler are at. He is dejected and depressed, and in need of some cheering up.
He drinks, sits by himself, and tries to talk to Rachel on the phone, but hangs up when he realizes Mark that is there. He had the love of his life, only to lose her… to her job, of all things (and perhaps Mark).
He looks completely heartbroken in the episode, which strongly contrasts his normal expression. Ross is usually a pretty happy guy, but this is a moment where he completely breaks down-- and heartbroken, depressed people often make poor, self-destructive decisions.
When Chloe asks him to dance, Ross only gives in because he feels down and has been drinking. One could argue that he only sleeps with Chloe because he believes that he has nothing left to lose.
3 They Weren't: Rachel didn’t do anything with Mark
Ross tells Rachel that the only reason he slept with Chloe was because he thought that Rachel was, at the same time, having sex with Mark. While it's very possible that Ross believes this-- and, yes, Rachel never should have let Mark come over-- it proves that Ross didn't make an effort to understand things from Rachel 's perspective.
Ross’ fears were unfounded: Rachel never kissed nor touched Mark, much less slept with him. Even though she had initiated the break and believed that they had broken up, she didn’t use it as an excuse to start seeing Mark.
Rachel respected Ross’ feelings and respected their relationship. More importantly, she didn’t sleep with Mark because she didn’t want Mark, she wanted Ross. She even told Mark that she wanted to get back together with Ross.
Later on in the season, when Rachel has the chance to sleep with Mark and make Ross jealous, she chooses not to because she believes it would be like cheating on Ross.
2 They Were: Ross would never do anything to hurt Rachel
Ross loved Rachel. He first fell in love with her when she was in high school. She was Monica's best friend, and he pined after her from the first moment they met. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to make her happy.
Ross is kind and generous, and the idea of him doing anything to hurt those he loved (beyond laughing at Joey occasionally) is entirely out of character.
Because of the heartbreak— and the alcohol— he wasn’t entirely in his right mind. He’s not the sort of person to do something to make someone intentionally jealous, or hurt someone on a whim. Often, when people act out of character, there’s a real reason behind it, and that motivation needs to be weighed and considered when consequences are being meted out.
Ross would never hurt Rachel intentionally, but, because he was heartbroken and truly believed that he and Rachel were broken up — or, at the very least, on a break — he slept with Chloe.
1 They Weren't: Rachel wanted to fix things with Ross
Almost immediately after Ross left her apartment after their fight, Rachel realized she had made a mistake. She sat by the phone and waited for him to call, and when he did call later (when Mark was over), she made overtures to fix things.
After Mark left and Ross had hung up on her, she called Ross multiple times to try to talk to him. Her actions were of someone who realized she had made a mistake in a heated argument, not of someone who wanted a relationship to end.
She went over to Ross' apartment early in the morning to fix things, and things would have stayed fixed, most likely, if Ross hadn’t betrayed her trust.
Rachel knew she had overreacted and wanted to make up and resume dating, but, at the end of the day, Ross’ actions ended their relationship.
What do you think? Were Friends' Ross and Rachel on a break or not? Let us know in the comments!