‘The Big Bang Theory’: Did Sheldon and Howard Really Hate Each Other?

Sheldon Cooper and Howard Wolowitz had one of the oddest relationship dynamics on The Big Bang Theory. While Sheldon clearly had the least in common with Penny, he was still seemingly closer to her than he was to Howard. Sheldon didn’t even seem to consider Howard a friend; instead, he felt him a “treasured acquaintance,” and Howard appeared to only put up with Sheldon for the sake of his other friendships. So, did the pals really hate each other, or was their relationship dynamic just a little bit distant?

Did Sheldon despise Howard’s lack of drive?

While Penny was, by far, the least educated member of the core friendship group, her lack of education was mocked far less than Howard’s educational background. Howard received his master’s degree from M.I.T, a school that, by all measures, is elite. Still, Sheldon often poked fun at the fact that he didn’t have a doctorate.

Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar)
Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) | Michael Yarish/CBS via Getty Images

So, why did Sheldon poke fun at Howard’s background far more often than Penny’s? Maybe  Sheldon disliked Howard’s lack of drive. Sheldon is brilliant, and he’s undoubtedly adept enough to know that someone has to be bright to get into M.I.T in the first place. It’s possible that he took Howard’s lack of a doctorate as a sign of intellectual laziness, rather than an inability to complete the coursework.

Penny, on the other hand, is painted as a traditional “ditz,” meaning her lack of educational background wasn’t for lack fo trying, but rather a lack of ability. Sheldon might find comfort in Penny’s persona for other reasons too. Penny seemingly shared several personality traits with Sheldon’s twin sister, Missy.  

Howard only puts up with Sheldon for Leonard’s sake

It may have pained Leonard to hear it, but he and Sheldon are best friends. When two people’s lives become intertwined, friendship groups inevitably became intertwined, too. It would seem that Howard only puts up with Sheldon for the sake of Leonard, who would be caught in the middle of a freeze-out. Howard pretty much admits as much to Penny, stating that he and Raj started hanging out with Sheldon because they liked Leonard.

Amy later points out the same to Sheldon, noting that Leonard is the nucleus of the friendship group. Without him, everyone would drift away from Sheldon. In response, Sheldon tries to create his own core group, but that quickly sours. It’s safe to say, because of Sheldon’s quirks, Leonard has to serve as the buffer, ensuring everyone is satisfied enough to put up with Sheldon’s eccentricities.

Why is Leonard the center of the group?

It’s pretty safe to say that Sheldon and Howard would not be friendly if it weren’t for Leonard. In fact, their personalities are so strikingly different that it’s hard to imagine them having ever had a conversation if it weren’t for their common friendship. So, did the pair really hate each other? Probably not. More than anything, they were indifferent to one another. That brings about a different question, though – why did Leonard feel the urge to foster a friendship between his own group and his roommate?

If you look at Leonard’s psychological profile, he is the perfect example of a people-pleaser. Leonard is desperate to see other people happy, but he’s also serving his own interests in the process. By providing Sheldon with other friends, he is sharing the burden of taking care of Sheldon, who, while incredibly brilliant, was lacking in the ability to keep his own basic needs met.