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Strange Things About Leonard And Penny's Relationship In The Big Bang Theory

Airing for 12 seasons from 2007 to 2019, Chuck Lorre's "The Big Bang Theory" is one of the most popular and enduring sitcoms in recent history. During its esteemed run, the cast and crew amassed an incredible 10 Emmys and the show was nominated for over 250 awards. "The Big Bang Theory" came to a sad end after 279 episodes, but it still lives on in syndication and via streaming. 

One of the biggest storylines in "The Big Bang Theory" is the relationship and eventual marriage of Leonard and Penny (Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco). Though they start out as total opposites and complete mismatches, by the end they are extremely happy together and have one of the strongest bonds among the couples. Their relationship is far from perfect and surprises most of their friends (as well as any strangers they meet), but they still manage to make it work.

However, even though they will no doubt be remembered as a great TV couple, there are more than a few questionable things about their relationship. From Leonard's secrets to Penny's commitment issues, not everything seems to add up. Looking back, these are some of the strange things we noticed about Leonard and Penny's relationship in "The Big Bang Theory."

Too many proposals

One of the best moments in "The Big Bang Theory" comes in the Season 7 episode "The Gorilla Dissolution," when Leonard and Penny finally get engaged. The reason the engagement is so satisfying for fans is because it's not exactly the first time they have proposed to each other.

The first proposal happens near the end of Season 5 in "The Launch Acceleration." Leonard proposes off-screen to Penny while the two are getting intimate, which upsets Penny because of how surprising it is. Leonard tries again on Valentine's Day in Season 6's "The Tangible Affection Proof," but Penny shoots him down before he even starts. In Season 7's "The Hesitation Ramification," Penny actually proposes to Leonard, but he can tell it's more out of self-pity and he declines. The last failed proposal goes down in Season 7's "The Proton Transmogrification," which is somewhat more of a joke than a real proposal, but still counts.

Not including the countless off-screen instances frequently alluded to, they propose to each other a total of five times in just three seasons, which is more than a bit excessive. While it all works out for them in the end, it's very weird that a couple would need five different proposals for an engagement to actually take. Then again, Penny and Leonard don't exactly have a normal relationship.

They have nothing in common

It's often said that opposites attract, and in the case of Leonard and Penny in "The Big Bang Theory," that almost certainly has to be the case. While it's pretty evident that all of the series' couples have at least some quirks and idiosyncrasies to their relationship, Leonard and Penny's link is one of the hardest to really justify or explain. It's not that they don't love each other, but the big question is how they realistically could have fallen in love.

For starters, their interests are completely divergent and don't really intersect at all. Penny's life is pretty much filled with pop-culture references, watching sports, lots of partying, and relatively menial jobs like waitressing or C-movie acting. In contrast, Leonard is an accomplished experimental physicist with a high IQ and Ph.D. who doesn't understand most sports, loves science and Dungeons and Dragons, and collects comic books. On paper, they have pretty much nothing in common, and Leonard's main attraction to Penny is seemingly her looks.

Even as the series progresses, the gap in their personalities doesn't really change. For the most part, their relationship is based on a shared common friend in Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and on Penny's appearance — which is a pretty poor foundation for a lasting marriage. In the series, Leonard and Penny seem to make it work, but it doesn't always make a ton of sense as to why.

Penny always puts down Leonard's performance

One of the longest running jokes about Leonard and Penny's relationship in "The Big Bang Theory" is the implied discrepancy between their looks. Penny is universally regarded as being extraordinarily beautiful and she portrays a sex-symbol on the show, while Leonard is largely characterized as an undesirable nerd who is out of her league on paper. It makes for good comedy on the show, but Penny also hints at being somewhat unfulfilled in the relationship, which adds a whole new level to their strange dynamic.

Their prior relationships were anything but similar. Penny was frequently going out with new people and taking them home, while Leonard seemingly struggled to do the same (with only a few exceptions). Once they get together, Penny constantly hints at Leonard's inexperience in the area, often putting him down as being completely inferior compared to previous lovers. It's played for laughs, but sex is clearly important to Penny in the relationship.

One example is during the Season 8 episode "The Colonization Application." The two experiment with body paint and a blank canvas, and all Penny can focus on is how seemingly boring their sex life is depicted. Even when they try again, Penny still hints at being unsatisfied, even though Leonard thinks it is the performance of his life. It's just one more area of Leonard and Penny's relationship that doesn't make a ton of sense.

Leonard and Penny's wedding argument

A pretty questionable aspect about Leonard and Penny's relationship in "The Big Bang Theory" is their first wedding. Their adventure started off somewhat romanticly, with them deciding to drive to Las Vegas in the middle of the night to get married, but they end up getting into a massive argument on the way. Leonard decides to tell Penny about kissing a researcher while he was working at the North Pole in Season 2, and the ensuing argument almost threatens to stop the wedding.

The entire thing makes no sense. Not only did Leonard barely kiss the researcher and nothing more, but it was before Leonard and Penny had even started really dating. The North Pole arc took place between their failed first date at the beginning of Season 2 and them starting to date properly in Season 3, meaning they weren't a couple at the time. What's more, during that same period, both Leonard and Penny were in different relationships with other people, including Leonard's serious relationship with Dr. Stephanie Barnett (Sara Rue).

Why Leonard even felt the need to tell Penny is strange enough, but the way Penny almost calls off the wedding is rather extreme under the circumstances. Why would Penny be so jealous over a random hook-up, especially considering she did the same thing? It almost seems like double standards, but at least they worked through it and managed to have a real wedding later.

Leonard never stands up for Penny

Sheldon's relationship with Leonard and Penny in "The Big Bang Theory" is often a complicated one. While the show never actually names a specific medical condition for Sheldon, he has a tough time fitting in and understanding social situations. This puts various strains on Leonard and Penny's friendship with him (as well as on their own marriage), especially when Sheldon puts Penny down — which happens quite often.

In seemingly every episode, Sheldon refers to Penny in some sort of negative or derogatory way. He often implies that she is stupid, overly promiscuous, lazy, bad with money, and a poor actor. For example, in the Season 4 episode "The Robotic Manipulation," Sheldon misogynistically suggests that Penny has had 31 sexual partners, which clearly embarrasses her. He even goes as far as changing the Wi-Fi password to insult her, making it things like "Penny is a freeloader" (Season 4's "The Thespian Catalyst") and "Penny already eats our food, she can pay for Wi-Fi" (Season 5's "The Speckerman Recurrence").

While some of these are somewhat harmless jokes, that's not always the case, but even when Sheldon takes it too far, Leonard doesn't really step in and say anything. He occasionally mutters a word in protest, but never really tries to make much of a stand. It shows a stunning lack of respect for his girlfriend and later wife, and is another strange aspect of their relationship.

It takes Penny forever to tell Leonard she loves him

One of the most confusing things about Leonard and Penny's relationship in "The Big Bang Theory" is that Penny refuses to say "I love you" back to Leonard for a very long time. The couple starts dating in Season 3, and during the episode "The Wheaton Recurrence," Leonard tells Penny that he loves her for the first time. Her response is a very awkward "thank you" before immediately turning away to go to sleep with a panicked expression on her face.

By Season 5, she still can't say it to him, even though he has no problem saying it to her. Leonard even proposes, showing how much he loves and cares about her, but she can't say it back. It's not until Season 6 that she's finally able to tell Leonard that she loves him — but even then it's completely by accident and she doesn't mean to. Even worse, she seems to regret her decision afterward. She has an extremely worried look on her face, and she basically makes Leonard pretend that she didn't say anything.

While commitment issues aren't exactly rare, the way Penny repeatedly refuses to tell Leonard that she loves him is a bit strange. He had already proposed to her by then, and Penny saw how much it pained Leonard to not have his feelings reciprocated. Yet, somehow that isn't enough to convince her to do it consciously. It's a good job she revealed her true feelings in that slip-up, or they may have never gotten married at all.

Penny's relationship with Leonard's mom

Penny's relationship with Leonard's mother in "The Big Bang Theory" is somewhat peculiar. To be fair, for the majority of the series, Penny is just as estranged from Beverly Hofstadter (Christine Baranski) as Leonard is. However, that all changes in the Season 11 episode "The Explosion Implosion," when they begin to develop a relationship by talking over the phone. Leonard gets upset when he finds out that they have been talking, mainly because he's had an extremely poor relationship with his mother for pretty much his entire life. He makes it obvious that he doesn't like them chatting behind his back, but they continue to do so for the rest of the series.

Penny's entire relationship with Beverly in "The Big Bang Theory" doesn't really make any sense when you consider the odd and somewhat contradictory behavior of both parties. Leonard's mom goes from being very judgmental and cold toward Penny to just wanting to be friends overnight, and Penny doesn't seem at all off put by her constant put downs of Leonard. At one point in "The Explosion Implosion," Beverly even tells Leonard that Penny is her favorite child, despite her just being an in-law. Leonard and Penny having very different relationships with Leonard's mom is another strange aspect to the couple that's never really explained or justified.

Leonard's secret savings account

During the early days of Leonard and Penny's relationship in "The Big Bang Theory," Leonard makes much more money than Penny. Her income was inconsistent, bringing in what she could from acting and from waiting tables. That changes, though, once Penny gets a job with Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) selling pharmaceuticals and starts to make more than him due to her commission. Strangely, despite Penny becoming financially independent and being able to start paying off her debt, Leonard still keeps a secret bank account from Penny that he never plans on telling her about. It contains a pretty modest amount of money, but Penny is still very upset when she finds out.

When Sheldon reveals the existence of the account in the Season 9 episode "The Big Bear Precipitation," Penny confronts Leonard about it. He then makes a bunch of excuses about how bad she is with money and mentions some of the poor purchases she has made over the years. The whole thing is pretty insulting to Penny and is somewhat out of character for Leonard. It's one thing for him to have a separate bank account for emergencies, but to keep it completely hidden from his wife is totally different. It shows crater-sized levels of distrust within the relationship.

Leonard thinks Penny is dumb

It's not exactly a secret in "The Big Bang Theory" that there is a discrepancy in the academic credentials of Leonard and Penny. The former has an extremely high IQ and a PhD in experimental physics, while the latter dropped out of community college and does not have any degree. While there's certainly nothing strange about someone with a PhD dating someone without a degree, what's odd is that Leonard makes it painfully obvious at times that he thinks Penny is stupid.

Probably the biggest example of this is when he completely rewrites her paper on slavery in the Season 6 episode "The Extract Obliteration." He starts to read what she has, then finds himself disagreeing with her, so he writes pretty much the entire paper except part of the title. It's pretty degrading and devaluing for Penny, and shows just how inferior Leonard really thinks she is.

Later, in the Season 9 episode "The Big Bear Precipitation," Leonard shows how little he thinks of Penny's financial decisions, and he also expresses his disapproval with dating a non-graduate early in the series. Overall, Leonard's view of Penny as somewhat dimwitted never totally improves, and he pretty much always goes along with Sheldon's jokes at her expense. It's not what you would expect from a happy couple.

Their relationship agreement

Relationship agreements are a long-running joke on "The Big Bang Theory," but they really only make sense when they involve Sheldon, who came up with the idea. Yet, Leonard and Penny try it out in the Season 10 episode "The Romance Recalibration." They go down this route because they don't seem to be quite as affectionate with one another after getting married, but in the end it just adds another troublesome layer to their already strange relationship.

The agreement (which contains several insults about Leonard that the author, Sheldon, slipped in) doesn't really tally with what we know about Penny and Leonard as characters. Both of them openly make fun of Sheldon's relationship agreement with Amy (Mayim Bialik), and Leonard regularly breaks the friendship agreement he has with Sheldon. The concept really only applies to Sheldon's character, who clearly derives comfort from everyone knowing their role.

For the other characters, like Leonard and Penny, actually having a formal relationship agreement is completely useless and nonsensical. The ideas in the contract make sense, like Leonard being required to wear pants when he plays video games at home and Penny not being allowed to say "I'm fine" when she's not, but the act of codifying it is bizarre. The whole thing feels forced, unnatural, and very strange.

They were broken up for two years

It's not uncommon for couples to break up and get back together at a later date. Still, usually those breaks are relatively short-lived and typically don't last for two years, as was the case with Leonard and Penny in "The Big Bang Theory." They initially started dating early in Season 3, but the relationship came to a screeching halt later in the season, during the episode "The Wheaton Recurrence." It did not start up again until Season 5's "The Recombination Hypothesis."

Two years is a pretty big chunk of time to have been broken up. Additionally, during their break-up period, both Penny and Leonard date and become involved with several people, including Leonard's very serious relationship with Priya (Aarti Mann). Part of what makes their long break-up so strange is that they clearly don't want to be broken up for most of that period. Leonard and Penny still have feelings for each other and their chemistry doesn't go away when they stop dating. Their break-up took a painfully long time and didn't add any depth to their relationship, making it a complete miss from the beginning.