I’ve seen many articles and blog posts of everyone and their grandma sharing reasons why Ross Geller is the worst of the friends and a terrible person in general. I actually have a soft spot for Ross. He’s a good friend, great brother, and he has some of the funniest bits in “Friends.” Some of my favorite moments of the show include Ross getting an awful spray tan, bleaching his teeth too white, getting stuck in a pair of leather pants, struggling to move his couch into his new apartment, and losing his temper about a sandwich. Along with my favorite moments of Ross, he has a good heart when he buys Phoebe a pink bike and teaches her how to ride it after learning she never had that childhood experience, checks up on Monica after their parents call her a disappointment, and he kisses Joey despite that being the last thing he wants to do to help him practice for an audition.
Nevertheless, I firmly believe that he is an abysmal boyfriend. Most of the evidence for this claim comes from his relationship with Rachel, but Ross dates other women throughout Friends’ 10 seasons…and he treats them like dirt as well.
- Possessive Ross
From the beginning of the show, Ross never acknowledged that Rachel is a woman with her own thoughts, aspirations, and autonomy. The season before they start dating, Ross feels ownership over Rachel as if they’re meant to be together so that means it’s okay for Ross to walk all over her.
In Season 1, Episode 12, “The One with the Dozen Lasagnas,” Rachel breaks up with the Italian “crap-weasel” Paolo after he hits on Phoebe. Ross consoles Rachel as her friend, but also with intentions to show Rachel what a nice guy he is so that he can swoop in and date her. Except Rachel says, “I just need to be by myself for a while, to figure out what I want,” after dating Paolo and craving a dating hiatus.
This is a reasonable and perfectly spelled out request for a young woman in her 20’s. But of course, Ross doesn’t accept this and he tries to tell Rachel how she should feel and even says, “Not all guys are like that!” How can you not dislike Ross after such a misogynistic rant half-way into the first season. He never learns after that either.
- Rachel Rising Through The Ranks
How Ross reacts to Rachel’s career is very telling of his true colors. The series starts with Rachel leaving her fiancé at the altar, her whole life was planned, and her family expected her to marry a doctor to secure her financial future so she wouldn’t have to pursue any kind of career herself. Rachel leaves her fiancé to take control of her own life and figure out what she wants to do, not what others want her to do.
In Season 3, Episode 14, “The One With Phoebe’s Ex Partner,” Rachel plans on going to a lecture about fashion trends to help her career at Bloomingdale’s. Her now-boyfriend, Ross, insists that Rachel take him to the fashion lecture instead of Rachel’s work friend Mark. Ross is so controlling that he won’t let his girlfriend spend any time alone with a man that’s not him, despite Ross’s complete disinterest for fashion.
Ross falls asleep at the fashion lecture and back at the apartment, goes on and on about how boring her job is. He says he only went because he’s jealous that Rachel has a part of her life that he isn’t involved in. “Maybe it’s okay that you’re not a part of it,” Rachel says with a smile, “it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you, but my work, it’s for me. It’s scary, but I love it because it’s mine. Is that okay?”
Ross hugs her and says, “Sure.” Then angrily mouths “No!” to the camera. This cues a laugh track, but that doesn’t mask how awful the interaction between that couple was. She expressed her completely normal desire to keep her work and love life separate, not spending every second with her boyfriend but not completely ignoring him for work. Rachel asks Ross to be supportive. Yet, it’s too difficult for him to try to respect his girlfriend’s wishes and boundaries. Instead he continues to harass her. He sent giant cards with his face on them to Rachel’s work only when Mark is there, visit Rachel during her lunch break when she specifically asked him not to, and complain that he’s not the center of her world. Ross should have encouraged Rachel to pursue her passions like how a proper boyfriend should.
Don’t worry, I know that Ross is a fictional character and the show “Friends” didn’t really happen. It matters anyway because Ross is a model for those in romantic relationships.
- Laugh Tracks
On the other hand, when Ross takes Rachel out on dates, there are no laugh tracks because those scenes are intended to show men how women want to be treated. This is a major issue when Ross tells Rachel that she should stop rejecting him and go on a date already even though she already said “No.” The other friends say what a nice guy Ross is and that they’re “lobsters.” That makes male viewers think, “Hmmm, maybe I should endlessly harass my hot female friend who I have a crush on until she’s sick of rejecting me and finally agrees to go out with me…because it worked for Ross.” The basic concept of the answer “No” is lost to Ross.
- An Example of a Healthy Relationship
None of the other characters act this way in their on-screen relationships. On the day of Chandler and Monica’s one-year-anniversary, Chandler finds out that Monica had lunch with her ex-boyfriend Richard and didn’t tell him. They fight and Chandler even tells Monica that she’s “forbidden to see Richard ever again.” Instead of the argument escalating to more yelling like it may have in Ross and Rachel’s relationship, they calmly express themselves to each other and admit their faults. Chandler admits how wrong it is to try to forbid Monica from seeing someone, Monica apologizes keeping secrets from her boyfriend. Unlike his friends, Ross doesn’t try to maintain a healthy romantic relationship with Rachel and continues to treat women like crap.
- Unconditional Love Knows No Bounds
In additional contrast to Ross, Rachel exhibits bounds of compassion for him in moments when her love for him is tested. In Season 4, Episode 24, Rachel realizes she still loves Ross the day he’s getting married to Emily. She plans on flying to London to confess her feelings before the wedding and hopes Ross chooses her over Emily.
Except, when Rachel finally gets to London, she only tells Ross, “Congratulations.” As a display of true love, she selflessly prioritizes Ross’s happiness and lets him marry Emily instead of risking ruining Ross’ wedding day.
Rachel also understands when Ross has to work late and cancel dinner. She attends Ross’s academic seminars even when she couldn’t care less about the topic because she cares about Ross and after breaking up, Rachel goes out of her way to give Ross the phone number of a girl he had a crush on to cheer him up. Ross does not take any actions in return that show deep levels of love. While living together after years of being broken up, Ross lies to Rachel and doesn’t tell her she has a message from a guy she met at a bar and told to call her. That doesn’t sound like something a lobster would do…lobsters aren’t manipulative.
- Ross’ Other Victims
Other, less talked about, girlfriends of Ross suffered from his toxic behavior as well. While dating Julie and then Bonnie, he kisses Rachel. He says another woman’s name at the altar while getting married to Emily. He asks his ex-girlfriend who is pregnant with his child to move in with him while his current girlfriend Mona is out of town, then keeps it a secret from Mona for as long as possible. With a whole laundry list of instances Ross has been the worst boyfriend ever, you’d think he wouldn’t get upset with Rachel for not fitting into his mold of a perfect girlfriend, but he does anyway.
- Green Isn’t a Good Color on You
Ross’s angry outbursts, invasion of Rachel’s space, and manipulations culminate in the semi-break-up that drives Rachel to seek someone else to talk to who’s more understanding, Mark. Ross becomes jealous that Rachel is seeking comfort in Mark, that Ross sleeps with another woman out of spite. That’s right. Rachel has a friend over, Ross thinks that makes it okay for him to sleep with another woman.
- Their Breakup
Every aspect of Ross and Rachel’s infamous breakup was completely his fault. The events leading up to the breakup were entirely caused by him. Ross let his own jealousy, completely based on his own internal insecurities, begin every fight he and Rachel had.
Does this mean you should boycott Friends and never watch it again because Ross is problematic? Absolutely not. I’m currently binging the whole series for the 4th time and I do not foresee this behavior of mine changing ever. Please continue to laugh out loud at Monica and Rachel losing their apartment in a trivia game and please cry every time you watch Monica and Chandler’s engagement. Just also think critically about the innapropriate behavior of the characters from a show made almost 30 years ago. If you’re reading this and you haven’t seen Friends, do it! It’s kick-you-in-the-crotch-spit-on-your-neck fantastic!