After 12 successful seasons, The Big Bang Theory ended in, well, a bang. The long-running sitcom followed the lives of a group of highly intelligent but socially awkward friends Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj, all physicists and engineers working at Caltech University.
As the series progressed, all but Raj met and married women, including the pretty wannabee actress next door Penny, microbiologist Bernadette, and neuroscientist Amy. Everyone became close friends, hanging out together, going on trips, and sharing details of their personal lives.
But not everyone within the group was close with one another. And when you really look at the big picture, Bernadette, who married Howard, and Howard’s perpetually single best friend Raj, weren’t really “friends.” Here’s why.
They Compete for Howard’s Attention
Before Bernadette, Raj was Howard’s number-one confidant. And while the two men still hang out together all the time, with Raj even often helping take care of Howard’s kids, Bernadette is clearly Howard’s new first priority.
Given this, she and Raj often have to compete for Howard’s attention. Bernadette will find Howard on the couch playing video games with Raj when he should be spending time with his family, while Raj will insert himself into family events when he isn’t always welcome.
They Are Both Like Howard’s Wives
Raj has always been a sensitive, sometimes even effeminate man. And there have often been jokes about how close his friendship is with Howard. They bicker and make up like a married couple, get on one another’s nerves, and share their feelings like two intimate partners might.
So in a way, Raj is like a second wife to Howard. This means their relationship is close, and Raj’s friendship with Bernadette is more like a rivalry for who will be the most important “wife” in Howard’s life.
Bernadette Resents Their Long-Time Friendship
While she doesn’t directly express this, Bernadette must feel at least a little twinge of resentment over Howard’s long-time close friendship with Raj. Raj knows everything about Howard, including his life before he met Bernadette.
Raj also knew and was close with Howard’s mother. And while Bernadette had the chance to meet and bond with her before she sadly passed away, Raj had many years before that to earn her respect and approval. Bernadette seems sometimes like she took on the mother role for Howard while Raj remains the “fun” best friend.
Raj Might Be Jealous of Bernadette
Just as Bernadette might be jealous of the history between Howard and Raj, Raj may also be jealous of Howard’s marriage to Bernadette. It must hurt even more given that Raj is desperate to find love himself but can never seem to meet “the one.”
Howard now not only has another close confidant in Bernadette, but also someone he can share an intimate relationship with, has committed himself to for life, and even has two children with. While Raj is obviously happy for his friend and gets along with Bernadette, it doesn’t mean he isn’t jealous.
Raj Doesn’t Have Boundaries
Raj shows up at their house whenever he pleases, inserting himself into conversations, giving his “woe is me” speeches about not being able to find love, and not respecting their familial boundaries.
Sure, he’s always there to help with the kids or around the house when needed, often considering himself to be “one of the girls.” But Bernadette finding Raj and Howard hanging out in the hot tub or, as mentioned, playing video games, probably gets annoying. Especially when it distracts Howard from helping out more with the kids and chores.
Bernadette Can Be Mean
Bernadette can be a pretty mean person, not just to Raj but to everyone. She’s often yelling at Howard or making fun of people. Raj is a sensitive guy who in the beginning couldn’t speak to women at all. So Bernadette might make him uncomfortable to a certain degree.
While Raj tolerates Bernadette because Howard loves her and she’s part of the crew, her sometimes mean-spirited nature probably doesn’t sit right with him. And he likely wouldn’t be friends with her outside of her relationship with Howard.
Raj Can Be Annoying Sometimes
Raj has a tendency to be annoying, constantly talking about his love problems (or lack of love), latching on as a third wheel, and generally lacking confidence in himself.
As someone who is overly confident, outspoken, and tough, Bernadette doesn’t put up with Raj’s self-pity parties. And while she has a soft spot for him sometimes, he can get annoying to the point that she will lose her temper and go off with the girls to drink wine and vent about her husband’s “other wife.”
Their Only Connection is Howard
When it comes down to it, while they are both super smart and work in fields of science, their only real connection is Howard. If Bernadette and Howard broke up, or if Raj and Bernadette had met on their own, would they have become friends? Probably not.
They are very different people with different values, upbringings, and approaches to life. Howard is the common denominator between them, but that’s about it. Without Howard, they would probably never have bonded at all.
They Aren’t Anything Alike
As mentioned, Bernadette and Raj are two very different people. She grew up in a house with five siblings and an overprotective mother who worked full-time and left Bernadette, the eldest child, to take care of her brothers and sisters on her own. Needless to say, she didn’t have it easy.
Raj, meanwhile, grew up in a wealthy household in India, surrounded by servants and a lavish lifestyle. His parents were even still sending him money when he moved to California. So he doesn’t quite understand what it means to struggle.
They Don’t Hang Out Alone
Many of the friends hang out on their own without their respective romantic partners, like all three girls, Howard and Raj, Penny and Sheldon, and so on. But Raj and Bernadette don’t really ever hang out together.
Any time they are together, Howard is usually there as well, or other friends are with them. Bernadette and Raj aren’t two people who will make a date to go out for drinks or coffee or dinner by themselves. So really, this means they aren’t actually friends with one another, but just friends within a larger group.