Most 20-somethings who watched the show and are proud owners of series box sets were only teenagers when Friends ended. At that time in our lives, we understood some of the show's jokes but even less about the characters' struggles with careers, friendships and romance. The show was hilarious, quotable and heart-warming, but it wasn't a reflection of our lives — at least not yet.
Today, 10 years later, we've reached the age of the cast when the show began back in 1994. We're semi settled in the world of new jobs, for the most part living fully on our own — and dating. Revisiting the show's most memorable moments, it's now apparent that Friends actually offered some pretty solid wisdom about romance and relationships. While we finally navigate the world as 20-somethings, it's clear that Friends got this time in our lives, in all its romantic complexity, completely right. In honor of the show's anniversary and our coming of age, here are 12 things that Friends totally got about relationships in your 20s. It's nice to feel a little less alone.
1. Relationships involve emotional gymnastics.
Phoebe's pigeon analogy is pretty right, but really every single character on the show does the all too familiar gymnastics routine at some point or another. Think back to Monica and Richard, or Chandler and Janice, or Joey and Rachel, or of course Ross and Rachel. In between the good moments, there is disappointment, conflict and a whole lot of relationship pigeon crap.
2. Romance is in the details.
There may come a time when the person you're dating can't handle homophones, or you'll discover your girlfriend's laugh drives you insane, or that your significant other doesn't want kids, or that you actually really need a partner who gets your Fraggle Rock references. Whatever that little thing you need is that's missing, Friends totally gets the gravitas in the details. Don't pull a Chandler and ignore the signs that a relationship isn't working: otherwise you could end up with a Janice.
3. Friendships are just as important as relationships.
It's impossible to imagine any of the Friends surviving those 10 years without each other. No matter who someone in the group broke up with, whether it was Fun Bobby or Paolo or Creepy Roger, the rest of the gang was always there to keep things in perspective. The message is loud and clear: as we grow up, we realize our close friendships teach us about love all along.
4. Weddings are actually great.
The gang goes to a handful of weddings on the show and each one of them is fabulous in its own special way. Weddings used to be full of family members we didn't know or hordes of our parents' old college buddies, but now weddings are college reunions of our own. Plus they're opportunities to indulge in buffets, cake and wedding romance. Sure, we may not find our soulmate at a wedding in Monica and Chandler fashion, but that doesn't mean we won't have a ton of fun: just as long as no one says our name at the altar by accident.
5. Relationships take research.
It's up to you whether research means reading dating articles or reading your date's most recent tweets, but a little background check never hurt anybody. The Central Perk crew was basically doing relationship research all the time: Ross looked at things anthropologically, Joey went for quantity and Rachel basically hired hot Tag just so she could study (see, date) him. Plus, if the quiz game in "The One With the Embryos" taught us anything, it's that we should be paying attention all time.
6. We're all thinking about forever.
In high school, we wanted dates to the prom, but now many of us are thinking about who will be by our side in the long run. While we may not sit around wearing a wedding dress, who are we really picturing in those final scenes of romantic comedies? Ourselves, of course, living happily ever after. There's no shame in looking for your lobster.
7. We all make mistakes.
Whether it's a bad date or a weird comment, we've all had that moment when we give up on our ability to make the right choices. While we likely wouldn't choose Monica to make our decisions for us (or even a close friend of our own), we certainly know we can't be trusted.
8. We must choose our counsel wisely.
For how little we know about relationships, we all have opinions on them. It's important only to let people who fully know you and your life speak to it. We can and should choose who we allow to influence our choices. Joey has very different dating advice from Ross and Phoebe and Rachel could not be at more opposite ends of the dating spectrum. Know who you're talking to and understand that their advice is coming from past experience.
9. Comparison ruins everything.
When we're observing how everyone around us is handling relationships, our expectations change and our judgments of our situations skew. Ross is the most traditional of the group and he ends up getting divorced three times. Phoebe is the least traditional and ends up getting married to Paul Rudd. Remember that our lives don't have to look a certain way at any given time. There's no right way to the finish line.
10. Sometimes we have to play it cool.
Especially if you're in the same group as a former love interest, you'll probably have to smile and shake hands with their future significant other at some point. Rachel was put in that position countless times, to varying degrees of success (Think: Julie, Emily, Elizabeth; the list goes on). You can rage about their new love interest later, but it's good practice to pull yourself together at least in public.
11. No one really knows how to flirt.
When Chandler gets trapped in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre, it is essentially a televised version of every flirter's worst nightmare. The lesson here is to relax, breath, avoid choking on gum and settle into the reality that flirting is a skill most people just don't have.
12. At the end of the day, everyone feels pretty much the same about relationships.
Though we probably grew up thinking love would be pretty easy, now we know it simply leaves us stumbling over words and confused most of the time. But that makes it all the sweeter when sometimes, eventually — just as it did for our favorite group of Friends — it all works out.