At the time, Ross mistakenly suspected that Rachel was having an affair with a co-worker of hers, Mark Robinson, and had subsequently frequently complained about how much time she had been spending away from him and with Mark. Eventually Rachel (who in reality only ever considered her relationship with Mark to be platonic and was unaware that he did indeed have a crush on her until he admitted as much to her in a later episode) became so frustrated with the amount of arguments she and Ross had been having over something that seemed so trivial to her that a fateful row with him ended with the following dialog:
Rachel: ... Maybe we should just take a break!
Ross: Ok, fine. Fine. Let's take a break. Let's cool off. Let's get some frozen yogurt or something.
Rachel: No! ... a break from us.
The couple separate immediately afterwards. Both Ross (in the same episode) and Rachel (at the beginning of the next episode) separately confess that the conversation construed a "breakup" and that their relationship is effectively ended.
After the breakup, Ross retreats to a bar, and eventually decides to telephone Rachel at her apartment and reconcile with her. However, by then Mark had called her and, hearing that she was upset after her fight with Ross, offered to come round her apartment and provide her with comfort. Overhearing his voice in the background, Ross mistakenly thinks he is there to have sex with her and angrily hangs up, convinced now his suspicions about her affair with Mark were right and his relationship with her is now over. Then the sum of his emotional vulnerability, alcohol and a promiscuous woman named Chloe causes Ross to have an affair. He does not learn that he had been mistaken in thinking Rachel had sex with Mark until the following morning, when he hears a message she left on his answering machine telling him she wants to reconcile with him.
So was it an affair or were they truly on a break?
- Yes, they were on a break.
- No, they weren't on a break.
Most Helpful Girl
They were on a break and were both aware of it, they just hadn't set any clear rules as to what was ok or not ok to do during the break. They were both wrong for assuming that they were on the same page: Ross by assuming it would be ok to fool around with others, and Rachel by assuming that it wouldn't be ok.
This could have easily been solved if they had just COMMUNICATED. But they didn't. Ross stormed out when Rachel said she needed a break from them, and Rachel didn't say anything about what she expected from the break.
This story arch has always annoyed the shit out of me because they were both too stubborn and proud to realize and confess that they were BOTH in the wrong. And Ross shouting "we were on a break!" every other episode is annoying as fuck too, because it literally means nothing in this context.
Most Helpful Guy
The key to this is the next day, when Rachel asked if she could be his girlfriend "again", implying she used to be his girlfriend, but no longer was.
There is no such thing as "taking a break" in a relationship. You're either together, or not.