If you’re like me who has seen and loves the American sit-com ‘The Big Bang Theory’ (TBBT for brevity) then there is no need for me to explain who Sheldon and Amy are or how the met and what they went through as a couple. If you are not then sorry, I will not be explaining those things in this post since it will take up most of the space and the time I need to compose this post. Just do yourself a favor and watch all ten seasons of the show. I promise you, you will love it!
Moving on, I have recently read an article online where the writer went out of his way to ask his readers to give him advice on how to keep a marriage stable since he just recently got married himself. Upon receiving his readers’ responses he noticed a pattern and several repeated answers that he was inclined to share these to his other readers. He believed that the repetition he saw in the replies of those couples who have kept their marriages for more than 20 years now are indicative of the factors that determine whether or not a relationship would last that long. I noticed some glaring similarities with what the article mentioned to that of Sheldon and Amy’s fictional relationship as shown on TBBT. Some of which I will focus on in this post.
1. Boundaries and Consent
As many of TBBT fans know, Sheldon and Amy’s relationship is unique as it is governed by a relationship agreement where many of the things they are willing and not willing to do for each other are stipulated in contract and binding to both parties. Sure, the agreement is unnecessarily skewed in favor of Sheldon but by allowing Amy the benefit of choosing to get into a relationship with him despite his many quirks (most of which are written in print), Sheldon in fact asks Amy’s consent from the start and lays out everything (almost everything) that she should expect from having a relationship with someone as tough to handle as him. By consenting to the agreement Amy already knows what she is getting into and that is why despite Sheldon’s many irrational manners she still just sighs and tries to understand him. There was one scene in the series where Amy mumbles, “His mother warned me. Everybody warned me. Actually, he warned me.” This meant that Amy knew what she was getting into but she still did anyway because she was willing to put up with him. They were both practical enough to set ground rules for their relationship which they both agreed upon. In other words, not one of them can make a fuss as long as the contract is followed since they already consented to it. However, this did not mean that Amy did not do anything to slightly skew things towards her own favor, she did but I will talk about that under another sub-heading.
Aside from the fact that the limits and boundaries of their relationship were set and kept both of them went into the relationship for the right reasons. When they first met both did not believe in romantic relationships which gradually changed when they both realized that they wanted to be more than friends. Although Amy was lonely since she did not have any friends she wasn’t particularly looking for a romantic partner to fill the void. She just wanted a friend and she found that in Penny through Sheldon. That is why you can see her clinging more to Penny than to Sheldon during the first parts of Season 4 and 5 (when she first entered the story). With that void filled she did not need a romantic partner to make herself happy but she got into one with Sheldon not because she was lonely and needed someone but because she found that she was happier and better whenever she was with him. This goes the same for Sheldon. He was completely content with the way he was living his life. Furthermore, he was a person who hated change the most but in the end he was the one who proposed that they get into a romantic relationship and embraced the change of having a girlfriend in his life since he saw that he didn’t prefer it otherwise. They were not pressured by any external factor to go into a relationship. They did not need each other to feel good about themselves. They just needed each other, period because they cannot see it otherwise. In short, it made more sense to both of them if they were in a romantic relationship just because they love spending time together.
Another thing to note is that they regularly talk about their relationship and the things that they find important. They have meetings on where to go on date night, what each other’s pet names are, what to do during their free time, what to purchase, etc. They talk about the littlest of things and make sure that they both are okay with their choices even if it sometimes leads to small arguments. Most couples think that it’s not important to dwell on the small stuff. Wrong! It is the little things that build up gradually until it becomes a big fight in the end. People may think that something as small as deciding on which restaurant to go to, what brand of soap to buy are things that they can easily brush off but it really is not. If something, even a little things, is bothering you it is healthier to talk it out with your partner so that he or she can understand your take on things. Communication is the key. Although later we will see that communication is not the most important thing to keep a relationship stable, we still need to take note that good communication plays a big role in a romantic relationship.
2. Mutual Respect, Trust and Preservation of Individuality
We TBBT fans all know that among all the other characters Sheldon thinks that Amy is the one who is most intellectually compatible with him and this is coming from a person who thinks that everyone else is dumber or stupider than him. This means that Sheldon sees Amy with the highest regard and respects her as a person. This is shown by the fact that he sees Neurobiology as an inferior science to Physics but never did he once mentioned that Amy was not a brilliant scientist nor notable in her field. In fact he mentions that she is brilliant and notable many times during the series. The same goes for Amy and from this deep respect begets a deep trust which is more important. Like I previously said, communication may be important but it is not the most crucial element of a stable relationship. It is mutual trust and respect and this is the element that is most seen in the ShAmy couple. For the other couples in TBBT there is respect but the trust element is a bit lacking. Leonard is always insecure and thinks that Penny will eventually leave him for a better looking guy. Penny is insecure that she is not worthy of Leonard since she’s not smart. Howard is insecure that Bernadette would change her mind and leave him and Bernadette feels the same way sometimes plus she has doubts as to whether Howard was the right choice for a husband. These issues are not that prevalent in Sheldon and Amy. Sheldon trusts Amy to the point that he does not get jealous even when he sees another man with her. In fact, he thinks it is impossible because they have “an iron-clad rule [in the relationship agreement] that she cannot have any physical contact with other men except [Sheldon]”. Now we all know that even if it is stipulated in writing there is still a possibility that the person will not abide by it. Hello, lawbreakers? But in this case Sheldon completely trusts that Amy will honor that rule even when he is not looking or caring. His trust in Amy is, in his own words, iron-clad. Amy at the same time trusts Sheldon completely. In the last episode of Season 10 where another girl starts hitting on Sheldon it wasn’t Sheldon that Amy was worried about, it was the girl. She knew that Sheldon did not see it as anything more than a friendly gesture but she was worried that this girl, with an obvious admiration towards Sheldon, would try her best to convince him otherwise. That is why she did not get upset with him. She instead got upset with her friends who did not look out for him.
Due to this deep trust we can see how Sheldon and Amy, though gradually changing, have preserved the very things that make them unique as individuals. This is because both of them, albeit enjoying spending time together, also enjoy their alone times and their individual times with their friends. In other words, they allow each other space that both of them need away from each other to preserve their individuality. Most couples think that spending more time together would be best for a relationship and letting your partner go off on their own would open the relationship to a lot of temptations. In relation to the article I mentioned, most couples who have stayed together for longer than 20 years say that this is not the case. In fact, it is the exact opposite. “A healthy relationship means two healthy individuals”, according to the article. Sheldon and Amy may have a lot in common but they also acknowledge the fact that they have a lot of things that differentiate them from each other.
Amy doesn’t like Star Wars or Star Trek. She doesn’t play video games and is indifferent towards trains. Sheldon on the other hand does not like Romantic love stories or any kind of romantic gesture, hates Valentine’s Day the most, dislikes gift-giving and celebrating holidays especially Christmas. But even if they are different they acknowledge this fact and make things work out. Amy sometimes takes Sheldon to train stations, gives him gifts he could enjoy like his Me-Maw’s (grandmother) Christmas cookies, allows him to spend time with his friends to enjoy games and watch his favorite movies. Sheldon also does the same with Amy and because they are happy as individuals and they still get to do the things they love despite being in a relationship with someone who has other likes make them happier as a couple because they do not see their relationship as a burden to their individuality but instead they see it as something that can foster their understanding of the other better and thereby becoming a more stable and loving partner to the other.
3. Romance is not a priority
Unlike Howard and Bernadette, Amy and Sheldon started off as very good friends first before they became a couple and even when they did become a couple romance was not the main point of their relationship. Leonard once noted that they once spent hours just ignoring each other despite being together but they just replied that they both enjoyed it. What they love is spending time together, not exactly spending it cuddling or spooning or even having sex. Although this changed when Amy started asking more attention from Sheldon and this became a problem which led to their break up in Season 8 and 9. Eventually when they got back together Amy realized that it wasn’t just Sheldon’s fault and that she shouldn’t have pressured him to do things he wasn’t comfortable with. Having learned her lesson she went back to putting their friendship as a priority first instead of romance. However this topic is best talked about under another subheading.
4. Slow change
There has been nothing slower in development than Sheldon and Amy’s relationship. It took them 2 years to hold hands, 3 years to finally kiss (not drunk), 5-6 years to have sex and 7 to move in together. Sheldon, with his discomfort with physical intimacy, is the one who was changed the most in this relationship. As previously mentioned, Amy made attempts to gradually skew things in her favor but she did it at a slow pace which made it possible for Sheldon to grow comfortable with the steps that she gradually introduced into their relationship. As someone who dislikes change so much Sheldon would have been hesitant to accept all the new physical intimacies that he would be forced to do with Amy as her boyfriend and Amy knew that. That is why she gradually eased in the changes so that Sheldon would not see them as changes that would frighten him and eventually make him run away but instead he would see it as an evolutionary cycle, something that naturally occurred as time passed by. This was successful due to the unique circumstances that their relationship were in and it was important that Amy recognized those circumstances and worked on them in a way that was fit for the situation. This is true especially since not two couples are exactly alike. One has to recognize that their partner has certain boundaries and ways by which they like to do things and the other should respect that. It all boils down to respect of the other person’s wants, desires and beliefs but this doesn’t mean that you will just be a martyr and put up with things no matter how irrational they seem. Amy saw some irrational things in that contract like the hand-holding clause which she successfully repealed and amended because she worked through it like a pro. She did not force him to change, she guided him to become a better person than he already was and that led to both of them becoming better people through their relationship.
The term people don’t change, in my personal opinion, is wrong. People do change and in a relationship you and your partner will change mainly because of your interaction with each other and with other people and events around you. What matters most is that your relationship is changing you to become a better person and not making you more pathetic or insecure. In the series Sheldon, after their break up, acknowledges how much Amy has changed him into a better person: “I was living like half a man. Then I couldn’t love but now I can. More soul than I’ve ever had. I love the way you soften my life” (Darling by the Beach Boys) which makes him realize how much he loves Amy and wants her back.
5. Rough break-up
Lastly, the ShAmy couple, unlike the other couples in TBBT, went though a really rough break up. Unlike Leonard and Penny who broke up because the other was unsure of her feelings for the other or Howard and Bernadette who broke up because of a “gross” misunderstanding 😀 (pun intended), Amy and Sheldon broke up because of larger matters. It wasn’t because the other was unsure of their feelings. In fact both of them were completely sure that they loved each other deeply. (It was in the same season when Sheldon finally said ‘I love you’ to Amy) It also wasn’t because the other did something horrible or that there was any misunderstanding of some kind. They broke up because there was a flaw in their relationship. As I mentioned before, Amy was asking for more attention, physical attention, from Sheldon but wasn’t getting any. Just when Sheldon finally decided that Amy deserved much more from him Amy breaks up with him because she needed time to assess whether or not she wanted to continue their relationship. This was because she put romance first instead of just preserving their friendship and she felt she wasn’t getting any of it so she left. It was a mistake on her part but it was something they needed to go through because without that break up Amy wouldn’t have realized that she had pushed buttons she shouldn’t have pushed and Sheldon also realized that he shouldn’t be too selfish. They came out of the break up stronger all because they allowed themselves time to think things through separately. My favorite line from Sheldon came because of this break up wherein he said: “I excel at many things but getting over you wasn’t one of them.” (referring to Amy breaking up with him)
They were still in love, they both knew that but they needed the space to realize the mistakes they committed and eventually realize that they were happier together. After getting back together one could see that Amy was no longer pushing Sheldon to be intimate as much as she did in the previous seasons, instead it was Sheldon who decided that they were ready to be intimate and realized that Amy deserves more love from him.
As we can see Amy and Sheldon’s relationship that was built on mutual respect, trust, consent and gradual acceptance of positive changes make theirs the most stable of all the relationships shipped by the show and frankly I can say that theirs is the most stable relationship that I know of, including that of my parents which comes close as second. That is why I am such a fan of this #ship. Note that what I have written here are my own personal opinions and takes regarding their story and that the writers and creators may have a completely different take to what I just presented. So caveat emptor everyone!
Also, please read the article by Mark Manson which inspired me to write this post:
Every Successful Relationship is Successful for the Exact Same Reasons