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Friends fans may debate certain aspects of the series, but everyone can seem to agree that Judy Geller was a pretty awful mother to her only daughter, Monica Geller. She was hypercritical, difficult, and cold towards Monica, but fans have pointed out that she was certainly not that way towards her firstborn, Ross Geller. The discrepancy may have been the writers’ way of highlighting a dysfunctional family dynamic in a humorous way, but it didn’t sit well with fans. What if the dynamic and Judy’s apparent disdain for her daughter had a different motivation, though? Some fans think it might.

Maybe Monica was the result of an affair

Judy was especially critical of Monica, and while that could hint at an underlying issue, some fans believe Judy was so hard on Monica because Monica was the result of an affair. There are two ways this could have played out, according to a fan theory. One scenario suggests Judy had an affair, never revealing it to Jack, and was forced to live with what she did. If that’s the case, Judy could see Monica as a reminder of her giant blunder. Another theory suggests that Jack had an affair, and he and Judy decided to raise Monica as their own, but Judy never actually got over it.

If Monica is the result of an affair Jack had,  it would explain why Judy appears to dislike her daughter so much. The theory, however, stops short at explaining where Monica’s birth mother is. There is a backstory that gives this theory some credence, though. It was stated, in the series, that the birth of Ross was a “medical marvel.” As it was described, doctors didn’t think Judy could conceive. If Ross’s delivery was a medical miracle, then Monica’s birth would have been considered the same, unless, of course, Judy didn’t give birth to her.

The notion that Judy  Judy had an affair and then passed Monica off as Jack’s daughter might seem wild, but it happens more often than you would think. According to Live Science, research suggests a whopping 4% of men are unknowingly raising children that are not biologically related to them.  Some studies suggest mistaken paternity might be even more prevalent.

Some fans think Judy simply had narcissistic traits

While the affair theory is undoubtedly interesting, some fans believe Judy’s behavior might have a different motivation. Friends fans point out that Judy clearly had some narcissistic traits, especially when it came to dealing with her family. Not only did Judy criticize Monica at every turn, but she also praised Ross for even the most minor of successes. She also tended to sweep his indiscretions under the rug.

David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Christina Pickles as Judy Geller and Elliott Gould as Jack Geller
David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Christina Pickles as Judy Geller and Elliott Gould as Jack Geller | Alice S. Hall/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Psychology Today notes that this type of dynamic is not uncommon in family’s that have one parent with narcissistic traits. In many cases, the family has one golden child who can not seem to do anything wrong in the eyes of their parent. The other child may be treated as the scapegoat and may find themselves blamed, not only for their own shortcomings but the failures of others.

Where can I stream Friends?

Could the writers have hinted at a potential affair or, at the very least, the reason why Judy seemed to dislike her daughter? You’d have to embark on a rewatch of the famed series to find out for yourself. That might not be so easy, though.

Friends will not be available for streaming again until May 2020. The series was removed from Netflix in January 2020 in anticipation of it moving to its new home. HBO Max will launch next month, but you’ll need to sign up for the service to embark on a rewatch of Friends. The service will cost $14.99 per month. Aside from Friends, HBO Max subscribers will get access to The Big Bang Theory, Pretty Little Liars, and many other beloved shows.