Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Ross Geller's Friends Timeline Explained

"Friends" is easily one of the most iconic sitcoms of all time. Even years after its series finale, the story of six friends remains an essential part of the pop culture lexicon, from its notable theme music to a host of quotable lines ("We were on a break!"). Although "Friends" has been criticized for a lack of diversity, it's still imminently watchable, unlike many other somewhat dated sitcoms (ahem, "Married...With Children"). 

While the show is as close to a proper ensemble—where each star is about as central to the show and story relative to each other—as you can get, David Schwimmer's character, Ross Geller, stands out. This is mostly because of his central role in the Ross/Rachel romance that had so many fans on the edge of their seats, but also because he's hilariously, memorably awkward. He also played a pivotal role in bringing many of the group's members together, so he's at the heart of the fan-favorite show. Here is a rundown of how Ross became Ross, both before and throughout the series' events (warning: spoilers ahead).

Ross: The Early Years

Born to Jack and Judy Geller, Ross and his younger sister Monica (Courteney Cox) were born and raised on Long Island. Ross attended the same high school as his younger sister, and it was through Monica that he met her friend, the more popular Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). Ross developed a crush on Rachel early on (she knew, but didn't reciprocate his affections). During one notable prom, Rachel's date, Chip, appeared to stand her up. Ross quickly worked to ready himself to take Chip's place and spare Rachel the embarrassment, only for Chip to finally show—to Rachel's delight and Ross' dismay.

After high school, Ross met Chandler (Matthew Perry) at college and the two quickly became best friends. Ross brought Chandler home for Thanksgiving in 1987, where Chandler met Monica and Rachel for the first time. Ross later went to graduate school at Columbia University, studying to become a paleontologist (incidentally, Ross is 26 in the pilot, which would make him a phenom in his field).

Ross and Carol

Ross initially met Carol Willick in college. The two dated, fell in love, and got married for a few happy years. Things took a turn for Ross in this early relationship when Carol, to Ross' great surprise, fell in love with a woman, Susan. 

This event unsurprisingly led to the dissolution of Ross' marriage, upending Ross' life and setting his arc in motion for the series. The divorce puts Carol and a sometimes-antagonistic Susan in a complex relationship with Ross that lasts throughout the series. The experience also left Ross insecure and untrusting in his relationships, problems that plague him throughout the series (and let's face it, Ross had never been that mature in matters of love to begin with). These contribute to serious missteps for Ross over the course of the series.

Most importantly for Ross' story, however, is that Carol is pivotal in a major event in Ross' near-future life: the birth of his son Ben ... but we'll get there.

Ross in Season 1

When Rachel returns to her friends, putting her life back together after leaving her ex-fiancé at the altar, Ross soon realizes that his old feelings for Rachel never left. A complication emerges early on at the revelation that his ex-wife Carol was pregnant with his child. As Ross copes with the emotional fallout of his divorce, he plans to tell Rachel about his feelings ... but before he can, Rachel meets neighbor Paolo during a blackout. The two start dating, and Ross, ever the jealous one, becomes increasingly frustrated with his situation. Meanwhile, their friends become increasingly convinced that Ross is in love with Rachel all over again. 

Rachel eventually breaks it off with Paolo, but then swears off men entirely, so Ross is no better off. Nevertheless, Ross persists. He repeatedly readies himself to tell Rachel how he feels, only to be comically interrupted, culminating in the biggest interruption of all: Carol in labor. They land on the name Ben for their son. 

Shortly before Rachel's birthday, Ross sets off to China for work. Rachel gradually realizes she has feelings for Ross, but can't reach him while he's abroad. She decides it's best to move on, but can't shake her feelings. When Ross returns, she rushes to meet him at the airport, not knowing he's returning with his new girlfriend, Julie.

Ross in Season 2

Ross finds himself happy in his new relationship with Julie until a drunken message on his answering machine tells Ross that Rachel has fallen for him. Ross talks to Rachel about it in Central Perk before storming out, then returning to kiss her. Caught between his feelings for Rachel and his relationship with Julie, Ross and Chandler create a pro-con list for each to help Ross decide what's in his heart.

Rachel discovers the list, causing her to become angry at Ross. But then she finds an old video of the time she'd almost been stood up at prom and Ross sweetly prepared to take her himself. The act revealed how long Ross had feelings for her, softening her heart. She kisses him, and they start dating, sleeping together for the first time at the museum where Ross works (saucy).

Ross in Season 3

The season begins with Ross and Rachel now happily dating with a variety of fun, inconsequential stories, like Rachel's Princess Leia role play and Ross and Rachel attempting to give Chandler boyfriend lessons. Rachel, encouraged by Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Chandler to quit waitressing, leaves her job to pursue a career in fashion. When venting her job woes to Monica, a customer named Mark mentions a vacancy in his department at Bloomingdale's that, eventually, Rachel gets. Ross becomes jealous and paranoid, believing her new boss has amorous intentions.

When Rachel's forced to work on their first anniversary, Ross arrives at her workplace with a picnic basket and generally barges in, gets in the way, and makes a mess of the situation. Understandably, they argue, and Rachel suggests they take a break. 

After their fight, Mark comes over to Rachel's apartment in a gesture of platonic comfort. During a phone call, Ross hears Mark's voice in the background and becomes convinced his suspicions are true. He hangs up, and, in a depressive, inebriated state, has sex with a woman he encounters, Chloe. He later listens to a voicemail from Rachel in which she explains that she doesn't want a break after all and wants to be in a relationship with him. Ross attempts to hide his drunken mistake, but fails miserably.

Upon finding out, Rachel breaks up with him in a massive argument. Their relationship really falters, argument after argument, until they agree to a mutual détente: They'll be civil for the sake of the group dynamic. Ross begins to date a woman named Bonnie who Phoebe knows—that is, until he learns that Rachel still has feelings for him. He has to choose between Rachel and Bonnie while the friends are at a beach house.

Ross in Season 4

At the beginning of the season, we learn that Ross decided to break things off with Bonnie and restart his relationship with Rachel, but there's a catch: Rachel has given him an 18-page letter (front and back) demanding that he take full responsibility for every error in their relationship. Ross falls asleep before reading it in its entirety and agrees to its terms without fully understanding them. The pair have sex, and Rachel praises him for maturing enough to take ownership of the relationship's flaws. He erupts, stating he doesn't agree it was all on him. His outburst ends their relationship.

Ross and Rachel yet again land in a strained friendship. They soften over time, particularly over Thanksgiving ("The One With Chandler in a Box"), when Ross finds out Rachel has kept a number of items from their relationship, even though she exchanges nearly every gift she's given. 

Mark asks Rachel to take his adult niece, Emily Waltham, to the opera when she comes to visit New York. Rachel has a hot date that night, so she convinces Ross to accompany Emily in her stead. Ross reluctantly agrees. Ross and Emily fall for each other quickly, though she inevitably must return to her native England. Ross proposes to Emily so she can move to the U.S., and they arrange for a London wedding. All seems well until, at the altar, Ross says Rachel's name instead of Emily's. Yikes.

Ross in Season 5

Emily goes through with the wedding despite Ross' huge, huge mistake, but real forgiveness is harder to come by. Ross can't find Emily and goes to the airport in hopes she'll join him on their planned honeymoon. She doesn't show. With Rachel at the airport as well, Ross asks if she'd attend their booked honeymoon with him as a friend. Emily sees the pair just as they're embarking. Emily leaves and Ross runs after her, leaving Rachel alone on a plane to Greece. Ross continues to try to earn Emily's trust and she gives him an ultimatum: lose the friendship with Rachel. Ross agrees to avoid yet another divorce, but he just can't quit Rachel. He realizes he can't, ending his marriage with Emily.

After all the drama, Ross becomes irritable at work, eventually lashing out after someone commits the (serious, in our opinion) transgression of eating his lunch ("The One With Ross' Sandwich"). After this and other incidents, he gets canned. Adding insult to injury, Ross gets evicted from Emily's cousin's apartment. 

Ross soon discovers that Emily is engaged again, causing him distress. He moves into an apartment across from Monica's, where he sees Monica and Chandler kissing. Discovering their hidden relationship pushes the embittered Ross even closer to the edge. 

On the eve of her new wedding, Emily calls Ross and wonders if they didn't give the relationship enough of a chance. Rachel intercepts the message and accidentally deletes it. Rachel tells Ross about it, but convinces him not to call Emily back. At the season's end, the gang goes to Las Vegas. Split off from the rest of the group, Ross and Rachel gradually get drunk, traversing the casino and stumbling into, and out of, a Vegas wedding chapel.  

Ross in Season 6

Ross and Rachel initially don't remember getting married. They figure it out, and while Ross doesn't want a third divorce, the pair agree to an annulment. Ross, whose responsibility it was to secure the annulment, tells Rachel it's taken care of, but reveals to Phoebe in confidence that they're actually still married. Ross intends to tell Rachel that he didn't annul their marriage, but continues to find excuses to put it off. The two get divorced at a judge's ruling, but agree that if they marry for real, it would be the one that lasts. Divorce: 3; Ross: 0.

Ross has several small crises, like overdoing his teeth whitening ("The One With Ross' Teeth"), getting caught for blaming his early pot experimentation on Chandler ("The One Where Ross Got High"), and Chandler's later hurt feelings when Playboy publishes Ross' joke ("The One With the Joke"). Ross briefly starts dating Rachel's sister Jill, but stops before they kiss, not wanting to ruin chances with Rachel. It softens Rachel's heart toward Ross, and also gets Chandler to finally be able to cry ("The One Where Chandler Can't Cry"). 

Ross in Season 7

It's the night of Monica and Chandler's engagement, and Ross and Rachel decide to have one bonus night of sex. This angers Monica, who feels Rachel is trying to distract from her big event. The spat prevents Ross and Rachel's plan from coming to fruition. Phoebe temporarily moves into Ross' apartment, leaving Monica and Chandler's apartment to give the latter pair some privacy before they get their own place. Ross has a few misadventures, such as accidentally discovering he likes napping with Joey ("The One With the Nap Partners") and finding that his dissertation is in the library in a section where people 'hook up' ("The One With Ross' Library Book").

Ross decides to teach Ben about Hanukkah, and Ross, Chandler, and Joey try to convince Ben that it's as cool as Christmas. Ross and Monica's parents announce their intention to sell their childhood home. They offer to allow Ross and Monica to collect any belongings they want. Monica realizes they'd used her boxes to prevent flooding, which damaged her nostalgic goods. To assuage their guilt, their parents give Monica the family Porsche, making Ross jealous.

The rest of the season builds towards the marriage of Monica and Chandler. Ross threatens Chandler, telling him to never hurt Monica, which Chandler finds hilarious. Ross later looks for Chandler, but instead finds a note to tell Monica he's sorry. Ross sets off to find the runaway groom. Phoebe and Rachel try to distract Monica. They find a positive pregnancy test that Phoebe thinks belongs to Monica. Chandler is found and the pair have a lovely ceremony, but we come to find out the pregnancy test is Rachel's. 

Ross in Season 8

Most of the gang thinks Monica is pregnant. Phoebe claims the positive test is hers, but privately encourages Rachel to take another pregnancy test, and Phoebe ultimately helps Rachel realize she wants to be a mother, though she won't admit who the father may be (shocker, it's Ross). Meanwhile, Ross meets Monica's colleague Mona and the two begin a relationship. Ross discovers Rachel's pregnancy, but hides it from Mona.

Rachel has dinner with her father, Dr. Greene, and tells him of the pregnancy. He's furious that Ross doesn't intend to marry Rachel. While Ross and Mona are at his apartment, Dr. Greene storms his way into the apartment, revealing the pregnancy and causing Mona to nearly break it off. Ross persuades her otherwise. In his characteristically fumbling fashion, he later makes a series of mistakes: giving Mona a key to his apartment, then changing the locks, then telling Mona he loves her. Ross and Rachel find out the baby's sex (in "The One Where Chandler Takes a Bath"), and, later (in "The One With the Secret Closet"), Joey suggests that Rachel move in with Ross so he can be more involved with his child's birth (this is a fun bit of self-sabotage, since Joey also has hidden feelings for Rachel). Mona discovers that Ross invited Rachel to move in with him without even telling her, and the two finally do break up. 

Ross and Rachel remain friends while roommates and don't romantically reunite, but Ross' parents are a little less than supportive of the pair having a child out of wedlock. Rachel gives birth to their daughter, Emma Geller-Greene. Rachel begins to feel alone and worry if Ross (or anyone) will be there for her and Emma in the long run. She tries to talk to Ross about restarting their relationship. He shuts her down, not wanting to run the risk of going down that road again. Phoebe later convinces Ross to reconsider, while Rachel doesn't know Ross' motives for turning her down. When Joey comes to visit Rachel, a ring that Judy gave to Ross falls out of Ross' bag, which Joey leans down to pick up. He reveals it to Rachel, who takes it to be a proposal and says yes. 

Ross in Season 9

Joey struggles to clear up the accidental proposal situation. Meanwhile, Ross, ignorant of Joey's mistake, decides to propose to Rachel. The truth of the situation comes out: It was all a misunderstanding and no one really proposed, a fact that doesn't placate Ross' anger over Rachel saying yes. This also causes a rift between Ross and Joey. 

Ross and Rachel struggle with parenting Emma and continue to be roommates, but Ross sees Rachel kissing colleague Gavin at her birthday party (to his surprise) and the proceeding discussions help the two realize that their dating lives (or at least the potential) causes too much tension for them to be platonic roommates. Rachel moves in with Joey.

Phoebe and Joey conspire to bring Ross and Rachel together romantically (in "The One With the Blind Dates"). They set the pair separately on a number of terrible blind dates, but they both realize it's been a strategic set-up. Ross falls for a paleontology professor named Charlie Wheeler, but she falls for Joey, which also makes Rachel upset, as she realizes she really does have feelings for Joey. Charlie eventually realizes she has more in common with Ross than with Joey and she breaks it off with him. Joey discovers Ross kissing Charlie, hurting his feelings. In anger at their betrayal, he marches to Rachel's room and kisses her. (If you think this sounds like a hot mess, you're not alone; some fans think Season 9 is when "Friends" started to jump the shark). 

Ross in Season 10

Ross catches Rachel and Joey kissing, discovering their new relationship. As much as he may try, he has a hard time accepting it. Rachel and Joey's relationship is short-lived, with both unable to shake the feeling they're too good as friends to have a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, Ross and Charlie have a healthy relationship until she's reunited with an ex-boyfriend for whom she still has feelings.

After Rachel gets fired from Ralph Lauren for interviewing at Gucci, Ross helps her move out of her office, when the pair encounter her old boss, Mark. He arranges an interview for her that results in a job offer from Louis Vuitton—but in Paris. As her departure date approaches, Rachel has a going-away party during which she says goodbye to everyone except Ross, which hurts him. She later goes to his apartment and explains that saying goodbye to him would be too difficult. They end up sleeping together.

Ross realizes that he's still in love with Rachel, but laments that it hasn't changed her plans to move to France. Ross races to the airport, Phoebe in tow, to tell Rachel that he loves her, but she gets on the plane anyway. Saddened, Ross returns home to find a message from Rachel. The message, left while Rachel was trying to get off the plane, is that she has changed her mind. When the message gets cut off, Rachel appears behind Ross. The episode implies that they ultimately have a happy ending