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Were Ross & Rachel On A Break? 3 College Women Settle The Debate, Once & For All

Whether or not Rachel and Ross were really on a break remains a point of contention amongst Friends fans, even after 17 years. In light of the recent reunion special – which followed the show’s 25th anniversary – we’re here to determine the answer once and for all. Below, three college-aged women – Bridget, 20, a junior at Baylor, Elizabeth, 21, a senior at Tufts, and Sidney, 18, a freshman at Illinois State University – finally settle the score: what constitutes a break, how is one established in a relationship, and were Rachel and Ross really on one? Or did he cheat on her?

Elizabeth Sander: A break is when either – or both – members of a couple decide they need to take space from each other. It might be because of a disagreement, uncertainty about the future, sexuality, mental health, or any number of things. But at the end of the day, a break equates space away from the other person, whereas a breakup means there’s no intention of getting back together.

Sidney Ropp: Being on a break means taking time away from each other to evaluate your personal lives and desires – and part of that means potentially exploring other romantic options.

Bridget Anderson: It’s like a temporary breakup, where the couple decides to test out if they’re happier without the other. The only initial rule is that the couple must stay apart, but they must determine any others they want to put in place.

ES: They need to define the rules and expectations, so that the other doesn’t end up hurt. Some couples may elect to still see each other while on a break – though I think it really means not seeing each other at all while they figure out what they want – but the most important thing is speaking with one’s partner about what the break means before deciding to go on one. That’s the best way to protect against added pain on both sides.

BA: The couple on a break needs to live as “single” as possible, to decide if they’re happiest without one another. If one member decides to take a break, whereas the other doesn’t want to, then it’d probably be more of a breakup.

ES: Yeah, the break needs to be established and understood by each person. I think if the intention is to be single then each party can decide what that means to them. Some single people like to date all the time and hook up, and other single people like to take time to focus on themselves, so it’s up to them how that would manifest itself while on a break.

As for Rachel and Ross, I’d say it was established that Rachel was thinking about a break, but it was not mutually agreed upon. Ross didn’t say, ‘No, I really don’t want to be on a break,’ but he also didn’t really leave room for discussion when he walked out.

He was so upset by Rachel’s comment and generally unhappy in the relationship (he kept accusing her of cheating or talking to other guys) – that he was acting impulsively in anger when he walked out. Hooking up with the other girl could have been in spite.

BA: He could definitely have been acting in malice. I don’t think he was interested in the other girl, despite his actions suggesting otherwise. A huge part of me wants to take Rachel’s side and be so angry with Ross for cheating, but Rachel was the one who was questioning the relationship directly.

SR: I think it was clearly stated and communicated that Ross and Rachel were on a break. I don’t necessarily stand behind Ross’s actions following the onset of the break, but I do think that it was obvious that they were on one.

ES: Ultimately I don’t think Ross cheated because of the confusion of being on a break. But I definitely think he hurt Rachel in an awful way. He didn’t care about the girl he hooked up with, but he still hooked up with her the same day the break occurred. And this is after being in love with Rachel for years, and in a serious, committed relationship with her.

I think it happening the same day emphasized the hurt that Rachel felt. And I definitely think the impulsiveness of it all made it worse. If Ross had waited a bit and sat with his feelings, he’d have seen that it was his anger leading him to do that, and that the anger was probably caused by hurt.

That’s not to say that hooking up with other people on a break isn’t acceptable. It just illuminates the reality of the relationship and qualities about the person someone is with. If you’re with someone for two years and the moment you’re on a break they take the opportunity to hook up with someone else, it’s not going to feel good. Maybe that’s a signal to the other person to think about what they would actually be getting from that relationship if the break were to end.

BA: Hooking up on a break may be forgiven, depending on the couple. But the fact that it was the first thing Ross did made it especially painful and a huge sign for Rachel to end the relationship.

I think if the break had lasted longer, Rachel probably would have found someone else she was interested in as well, but if Ross had waited for his anger to dissipate it would have been better for all parties involved. But even though Ross most likely hooked up with the other woman in an act of spite or anger, he’s not in the wrong for doing so.

SR: Better communication could have helped reduce potential issues between them, but it was clear to me that their relationship was no longer exclusive.

ES: I also think the hurt Rachel felt made her more likely to be angry at Ross for cheating because it felt like cheating to her, but I don’t know that it constitutes cheating in the same way it would if they were, at that time, in an exclusive, committed relationship.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Sammi is the Lifestyle Editor at HerCampus.com, overseeing content strategy for the lifestyle, decor, Her Future, Her20s, culture & entertainment sections. She first got involved with HC as the Social Media Manager and Senior Editor of Her Campus at Siena, where she graduated with a degree in Biology of all things. She moonlights as an EMT, and in her free time can be found playing post-apocalyptic video games, trying on new lipsticks, begging for Taylor Swift's attention on Twitter or planning her next trip to Broadway.
Sidney Ropp

Illinois State '24

Sidney is a sophomore Legal Studies student at Illinois State University, where she writes for both her collegiate chapter and the national Her Campus staff. She is deeply passionate about health, wellness, dietetics, and fashion. Sidney is so excited to be a part of Her Campus and have the opportunity to share her interests with the campus community!
Elizabeth Sander is a National Writer for Her Campus and a recent graduate from Tufts University, where she earned a BA in English and French. Elizabeth served as a Her Campus Editorial Intern for the Fall of 2020 and loved every minute. When not writing articles about all things culture and style (or the occasional personal essay), Elizabeth spends time creative writing, reading and working on flying crow pose. Next up on Elizabeth's agenda is Columbia J-School! Find her on insta @elizsander or for meals inspo @confinemnt_kitchn
My name is Bridget, and I am a South Carolinian living in Texas. I am a Baylor girl with 2 dogs I talk way too much about. 
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