The ring she had worn for months was an Irish love ring and did not—repeat not—mean that she and actor Tate Donovan were altar-bound. Still, when Friends star Jennifer Aniston showed up bare-fingered at a March 25 press conference in London, where the sitcom taped its season finale, reporters assumed the worst. Not to worry, she said: "I just didn't put on all my jewelry this morning."

Did the lady protest too much? Three weeks later, Donovan's father, J. Timothy Donovan, a New Jersey doctor, confirmed that his son, 34, and Aniston, 29, had ended their 2½-year romance. Why? "Sons don't tell their parents why they broke up," he told PEOPLE. But others speculate. Some say Aniston, now starring on the big screen in The Object of My Affection, was pressuring Donovan to wed (on a recent Friends, her alter ego proposed to—and got shot down by—guest star Donovan). Others suggest that Donovan—whose last big role was the hero's voice in Hercules—tired of his lesser wattage.

Once they seemed a perfect match. Smitten after their first date—dinner at a strip-mall restaurant—Aniston told PEOPLE last July that he was "one perfect guy." Donovan, an ex of Sandra Bullock's, was equally enthusiastic. "We definitely think about" marriage, he said.

Since the breakup, he has kept a low profile; Aniston looked radiant at the April 15 premiere of Affection. "Jennifer and Tate are both nice people," says Donovan's dad. "Nice people just don't always get married and live happily ever after."