Ariel? Oh. That’s kind of pretty. Okay, Ariel.
This is actually one of the crucial points of Ariel and Eric’s relationship build up: he took her on this thrilling, angst inducing, overwhelmingly exciting tour over the Kingdom not because he was obligated and NOT even due to being invested in her romantically (yet) seeing as at that point he was still inwardly committed to the mysterious girl with a breathtakingly angelic voice who saved his life. But nonetheless Eric - integrally responsible, considerate and unconditionally perceptive as he was - exhibited a phenomenally strict consideration for Ariel’s desires, interests and agenda by acknowledging her needs and ambitions and contributing to her acquirement of new experiences and journey of self fulfillment.
Not once did he try to pressure her into romantic interactions with him nor interfered with her activities regardless of how bizarre, monumentally confusing and anti-social her indulgence in them appeared to be at times. Patiently waiting aside while she interrupted a street theater performance in order to figure out how those amusing talking puppets worked, letting her drag him around all over the place while exploring the town square, dancing with her despite how not “lady like” her awkward and unadjusted movements and gestures must have been perceived by the onlookers. Placing the reins in her hands and providing her with a space, freedom and opportunity to learn and pursue individual growth by means of attaining little victories such as mastering a cart navigation despite nearly killing them both in a process, never doubting her capabilities or restraining/shaming her extraordinary and infective curiosity.
Thing is, Ariel had spent the entirety of her life repressed and caged by the environment where her plights, goals and agency were persistently and systematically condemned. Everything she loved and what made her relatively content and uplifted (preventing from sinking into full blown depression) in the atmosphere and place where she never felt whole and in a body she never belonged was viciously destroyed by her own father who chose to punish her for open mind and progressive outlooks his prejudiced self didn’t share. But then there was this avidly idealistic, dreamy, awkward, hopeless and helpless young prince who she had rescued once. And who is now recognizing the value and prominence of her goals, hobbies and little passions, who is entirely confident in her capacity to make choices and decisions that eventually and gradually help her develop in a literal and figurative way.
Appreciating and being genuinely impressed by her proactive, radiantly imaginative attitude and the fact that this challenging, electric young woman is marked by incredible perseverance and persistence Eric is, however, not inclined to kiss her - even when Ariel tries to initiate it herself - before he is completely and unwaveringly sure SHE is the one he wants by his side in any way other than someone he guides and admires. And his exceedingly romanticized idea of a relationship that up until that point operated on the notion of being hit by a lightning and miraculously falling in love out of the total blue even if the object of his borderline obsession might or might not be a figment of his post-comatose mind is deconstructed fundamentally when this mute, intensely assertive girl firmly confronts his initial ideology. Inspiring him to embrace the complexity and potential of mature, complicated and powerful type of emotional bonding rather than dwelling on unrealistic dreams. Eric, who earlier the same day was preoccupied with painting a grandiose picture of reconciling and randomly driving off into the sunset with someone he barely knew and whose very existence was up to a debate is now hesitating to even lean forward and engage in a physical contact of any sort with a person he is naturally drawn to until finding out what her name is.
Because he no longer bases his perceptions of romance on unreasonably idealized fantasies but on effective and mutual partnership, taking their commitment and Ariel herself seriously enough to analyze and examine his feelings and go into this relationship as a thoughtful adult. And if a single living entity starts blatantly misrepresenting and distorting this narrative ever again insisting that Ariel and Eric’s love was rushed or baseless I’m going to fight them by bringing up all the aforementioned, canonically established plot points again. Thank you and goodnight.