Over the course of eleven seasons, The Big Bang Theory has followed the adventures of a group of friends who have been both unlucky and unlikely in love.
With four male main characters who have been lifelong nerds, it was always going to be interesting to see these characters trying to find their way in the world of romance and dating.
While it would take years for Sheldon to feel ready to do anything remotely akin to dating, Leonard, Howard, and Raj had no problem with seeking women out over the years in hopes of finding someone who would understand them and, really, be willing to give them the time of day without writing them off.
Penny, the main female character introduced at the start of the series, never had much of an issue with dating, even if she struggled with finding the one, so plenty of alternately horrible and wonderful relationships were also introduced as a result of her own struggles.
As much as The Big Bang Theory has always been a sitcom about the lives of nerds, science, and fandom pursuits, it has also always been, at its core, a romantic comedy of errors.
Some couples and brief pairings have been more successful than others, and some relationships have only been teased in dialogue and dream sequences.
However, at the end of the day, The Big Bang Theory has created it fair share of love stories over the years - for better, and for worse.
Here are the 10 Couples That Hurt The Big Bang Theory (And 10 That Saved It).
20 Hurt: Kurt and Penny
When the series begins, Penny has just broken up with her boyfriend of many years, Kurt, a muscle-bound jerk who winds up proving to be a real pain in the neck for the gang, Sheldon and Leonard in particular.
It’s hard to see what Penny ever saw in this guy, especially when it’s revealed that he was unfaithful to her multiple times.
Making matters worse is the fact that he acts as an outright bully to Leonard and Sheldon, stealing their pants as though they were in middle school all over again.
Somehow, Penny briefly takes him back, but it’s a good thing that it doesn’t last much beyond that misguided decision. Although Kurt isn’t in the series for very long, his presence is always unwelcome.
19 Saved: Zack and Penny
Kurt couldn’t have been any more wrong for Penny, but someone like Zack was a perfect fit for her, even if it didn’t work out in the end.
Adorably goofy and kind at heart, Zack has always been a genuinely nice guy in all of his appearances.
His relationship with Penny never lasted because of her feelings for Leonard got in the way, but it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Penny and Zack settling down together in a world where Penny and Leonard had never met.
In fact, as a season seven episode reveals, Penny and Zack had even gotten married on a whim in Las Vegas at one point, signaling that while they may not be the best at self-control and rational thinking, their feelings for each other were at least once pretty genuine.
18 Hurt: Sheldon and Ramona
It’s hard to think of a series in which a storyline involving a research fellow adoring the person whom they are working with hasn’t ended in a clichéd one-sided crush – or worse, full blown obsession.
It’s a shame that The Big Bang Theory wasn’t able to withstand these tired clichés, especially when introducing a character as allegedly intelligent and capable as the young, gifted Caltech researcher Ramona Nowitzki.
At this point in the series’ narrative, Sheldon has no interest in the opposite gender, so it’s quite obvious that he’d rebuff her bordering on stalkerish advances.
However, when Ramona returns, at a point when he’s already in love with Amy, only to further doggedly pursue him, it does neither of their characters any favors.
17 Saved: Mary and Alfred
The Big Bang Theory has always had an interesting relationship with its protagonists’ families. Most of the characters’ fathers have gone unseen for the series’ run, but it’s the introduction of Leonard’s father, Alfred, in the ninth season that introduces one of the series’ most interesting potential couples.
The pairing of Leonard’s father with Sheldon’s mother is a comedy gold mine from start to finish, particularly since Leonard’s mother cannot stand either of them, and witnesses it all unfold.
Of course, Sheldon and Leonard, best friends though they may be, have more than a few things to say about the potential of becoming siblings.
While the series hasn’t yet returned to this coupling since then, partially due to Judd Hirsch’s commitment to the now-canceled CBS series Superior Donuts, it would be a shame if they didn’t revisit them in this upcoming final season.
16 Hurt: Howard and Leslie
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to avoid getting romantically involved with any of your friends’ exes. However, where’s the comedy in that? It happens multiple times throughout the series, but the earliest incidence of this happened in the season two episode “The Cushion Saturation”.
The Big Bang Theory delights in taking advantage of the horrible pairing of Howard Wolowitz and Leonard’s former girlfriend, Leslie Winkle, for an entire episode, complete with paint ball battles and discussions of being arm candy.
However, these two never have anything remotely in common, and never develop any feelings beyond those of innuendo and convenience.
Thankfully, it only lasts for an episode, but even that was too much to take.
15 Saved: Glenn and Bernadette
Sometimes, a relationship doesn’t have to happen during the timeline of a series for it to be a positive thing. In certain cases, introducing a past relationship merely does wonders for revealing more about a character’s history than viewers have known until now.
Take, for example, the briefly discussed relationship between Bernadette and Glenn, as played by Rick Fox.
Glenn, as it turns out, was not only Bernadette’s ex-boyfriend of an entire year, but also her former professor, as well.
His introduction caused important conversations to happen between Howard and Bernadette, pushing their relationship forward, while also introducing some of the sitcom-requisite jealousy discussions.
While Glenn wasn’t a very major character by any means, his presence in the series added a sizable amount to Bernadette’s story and her growth in her relationship with Howard.
14 Hurt: Stuart and Penny
Stuart and Penny are some of the series’ most lovable characters, but for entirely different reasons.
Penny is the lovable outsider who has endured years upon years of nerdy experiences as a result of her connection to the boys, and as a result, offers some interesting commentary. Stuart is the lovable loser, always present when the boys don’t even realize they need him around.
However, when paired together, this potential couple just never seemed to make any sense.
As sweet as they both may be, it was clear this relationship was headed nowhere from the very beginning, especially when Penny’s interest in Leonard was so heavily telegraphed by the series at the same time.
As a result, it just felt like the series was spinning its wheels for a while by putting them together, no matter how briefly it may have been.
13 Saved: Raj and Penny
While Stuart and Penny never really worked together in any meaningful way, nor did they contribute anything substantial to the series overall, the decision to have Raj and Penny sleep together produced a considerable amount of hilarious drama for the series.
On the one hand, it was great to finally see Raj – the man who was once totally incapable of talking to women without being completely drunk – get the girl for once.
It was also hilarious to see these two deal with the aftermath of their short-sighted decision, especially when Leonard learned of it.
However, beyond that, it was wonderful to see them become even closer as a result of it, their friendship only strengthened no matter their impulsive behavior.
12 Hurt: Raj and Emily
Poor Raj. Besides Stuart, he has struggled the most when it comes to finding the right person to be with. As of the end of the series’ eleventh season, he still hasn’t.
However, it’s beyond clear that Emily may have been the worst possible girl for him to have ever been with.
Overlooking the fact that Emily had a downright disgusting shared history with Howard, the duo couldn’t have been any more wrong together.
Emily was creepy, always seeming like she was one meltdown away from becoming fully dangerous. Raj has always been a softie at heart, doting and affectionate and protective – especially when dealing with his little puppy, Cinnamon.
Sometimes, opposites should just really never attract.
11 Saved: Stuart and Denise
As hard as it may be to believe, there’s a very good chance that Stuart has finally found the girl of his dreams – and one who may like him back, at that.
At first, Denise is merely Stuart’s newest employee, one who doesn’t seem to have any real interest in him. When he asks her to be his date to Sheldon and Amy’s wedding, she’ll only agree to go when she learns that Mark Hamill is attending.
However, when Stuart gets the chance to show his nerdy street cred at the wedding, one upping Hamill with his own Star Wars trivia knowledge, Denise is suddenly totally into him.
There’s no telling what the final season will hold for these two, if anything, but it’s about time Stuart finally have someone.
10 Hurt: Leonard and Leslie
Even in the early seasons of The Big Bang Theory, it was clear that Leonard wanted to be with Penny, and not really anyone else. However, this didn't stop him from pursuing relationships with people who were more emotionally available to him at the time.
One of these early relationships was with Leslie Winkle, a fellow scientist played by Johnny Galecki's former on-screen love, Sara Gilbert.
Their relationship was more one of a love-hate variety, and it was clear that it would never materialize into anything long term because of it, despite their shared academic interests.
However, beyond the short-term reality of their relationship, it was also abundantly clear that the powers that be behind the series had predominantly chosen Gilbert because of her shared screen history with Galecki on Roseanne.
As tempting as the nostalgia factor may have been, the series would have been better off avoiding the relationship altogether.
9 Saved: Leonard and Penny
From the beginning of the series, it was clear that The Big Bang Theory was going to be building toward a time when Leonard and Penny could be together.
The nerdy underdog getting the girl of his dreams is a tried (although admittedly sometimes tired) and true trope that countless series have used, and TBBT was merely yet another in a very long line of them.
Leonard and Penny faces their fair share of obstacles on their journey toward being together – not least of all their own inability to commit or get over their own insecurities.
However, in time, the two finally admitted to their feelings and came together, and they've been going strong ever since, even getting married late in the series' run.
The couple has faced their continued issues over the years, including the reveal that Leonard was unfaithful to Penny and Penny's difficulties committing to a career.
However, in the end, the series began as their love story, and will likely end that way, too.
8 Hurt: Sheldon and Amy
It was going to take some real suspension of disbelief to believe that Sheldon Cooper could ever be in a romantic relationship, no matter what woman he wound up with.
At first, when the series introduced Amy Farrah Fowler, it seemed like this would be doable: she was similarly awkward and academically minded, not overly romantic or eager for aspects of a relationship that Sheldon otherwise displayed no interest in.
However, over time, Amy became an insufferable character, whose almost every line revolved around double entendres much like Howard in his years of being an annoying, single-minded pig.
With her increasingly demanding personality, Amy began to push Sheldon to become a different man, more like the others in the group.
Overall, she did the opposite of changing him for the better.
7 Saved: Bert and Amy
Someone who did, in fact, bring out the best of Amy, however, was perhaps one of the most unlikely people of them all: resident shy geologist Bert Kibbler.
While their romantic interactions were always one-sided, with Bert’s crush on her sadly not returned, their scenes together were always filled with a sort of humor and warmth absent from all of Amy’s years of interaction with Sheldon.
Their personalities naturally match better than Amy’s ever has with Sheldon’s, with Bert being much more the type of person you would expect a character like Amy once was to be with.
It’s a shame that by the time their characters were allowed to interact, Sheldon and Amy were too far and away solidified as one of the series’ main couples – for better, or worse.
6 Hurt: Raj and Lucy
While Emily was arguably the worst of all of Raj’s girlfriends, Lucy wasn’t exactly a prize, either.
From the very beginning, it wasn’t clear that these two could ever even be in a real relationship.
Due to Lucy’s intense social anxiety, most of their dates ended in disaster, including the time when she fled from the restaurant out a bathroom window.
While they did have their cuter moments, such as the time they communicated via text for an entire date, this relationship was clearly never going to go anywhere.
Lucy never made any progress in becoming part of the group, which was more than understandable, given how overwhelming they often are.
The lack of any discernible chemistry between Kunal Nayyar and Kate Miccuci only made matters worse.
5 Saved: Sheldon and Penny
We’re not sure what it says that one of the best romantic relationships on the series has only ever happened in dreams, but those are the facts.
While The Big Bang Theory has remained staunchly devoted to the pairings of Sheldon and Amy, and Leonard and Penny, the dynamic between Sheldon and Penny has had some of the most organic development in the entire series.
In the very beginning, the two could hardly stand one another, with Sheldon’s uptight ways totally going against Penny’s laid-back personality.
Over time, however, the two became unlikely acquaintances, and eventually, true best friends.
Penny even sings Sheldon his beloved “Soft Kitty” song and touch-averse Sheldon has hugged Penny on multiple occasions.
4 Hurt: Leonard and Stephanie
Sometimes, relationships on a show just don’t ever really work, to the point that the series totally drops the relationship without so much as a word as to what happened to it.
This happens in the case of Leonard and his doctor girlfriend, Stephanie, in the series’ second season.
Stephanie is much higher strung than Leonard ever had been, and she’s also far and away the aggressor in their relationship.
Over the course of three episodes, they go from meeting for the first time to Stephanie moving in with Leonard, all without his ever realizing it.
It suffices to say that this relationship wasn’t going to work out in the long term, but rather than deal with it on screen, the series drops it without a word as to how it all ends.
3 Saved: Howard and Bernadette
If you told anyone in the series’ earliest seasons that Howard Wolowitz would settle down with the girl of his dreams and become a responsible husband and father, they probably would have laughed right in your face.
In the earliest part of TBBT’s lengthy run, Howard was both a man child and a total pig, chasing almost every girl he possibly could even though he was disgusting in almost every encounter he had with a member of the opposite gender.
When he met Bernadette, however, everything changed.
While Howard is definitely still a man child to this day, he and Bernadette are very much in an adult, loving, healthy relationship.
They’ve grown together, created their own little family, and have represented the closest the series has offered so far to a truly happily ever after.
2 Hurt: Leonard and Priya
While Leonard and Stephanie’s relationship definitely went way too far, way too fast, it still somehow wasn’t the worst relationship the series had to offer.
Instead, that distinction goes to the relationship between Leonard and Raj’s uptight sister, Priya.
As a corporate lawyer, Priya always is stuffier and more mature than the gang of friends ever has been. Her world is totally different from theirs, and as a result, a clash of personalities and cultures exists, the likes of which the series never covered even with Penny’s own outsider status.
The chemistry between Johnny Galecki and Aarti Mann also never felt genuine.
It seemed like the series merely wanted to explore the potential conflict of interest that comes from a friend dating another friend’s sibling, rather than anything organic to the characters.
1 Saved: Howard and Raj
Sometimes, the most romantic of all loves is the love shared between two best friends.
Of course, the series has coyly flirted with the idea of Raj and Howard secretly being in love with each other on more than one occasion, especially when Leonard’s overly analytical mother comes to town.
Yet analysis aside, these two have had the most committed relationship to each other out of the entire cast of characters.
When the duo “break up” during the series’ eleventh season, it produces some of the most emotionally affecting moments in the entire show.
So Howard may be happily married to Bernadette, and Raj may still be looking for Miss Right, but at the end of the day, these two are always going to be the real deal.
What are your favorite and least favorite relationships in The Big Bang Theory? Let us know in the comments!