How do you think season 4 would've gone had Eric been the one to have a serious (non-Donna) girlfriend while Donna remained unattached?
Well, I actually think Donna shouldn’t have dated anyone since her reasons for not accepting Eric’s promise ring was that she wanted to do so much more before having a bigger compromise. She felt like if being with Eric (and I asume, anyone else) was going to hold her from achiving all these things she dreamt of.
But Eric wanted to be in a relationship. He wasn’t interested in a future beyond a desire of finishing school and going to college (and we even get to see that he didn’t have a clue of what he was going to do with his future in later seasons). For him, a big deal in his life was to get the girl and he did. His error? Taking her for grounded.
I think a more in character Eric may have tried to date with odd results. He sort of tries in season 4, but everything always takes him back to Donna and how they are both just waiting for the other to give in. Which is sick and toxic, and shouldn’t had been this way. So, had he dated someone instead of Donna dating an asshole, I think he may have learned to respect Donna even more.
Because part of what makes Donna feel comfortable with Eric is the fact that they have know each other for a long time. She can understand where his internal sexism and self-dislike is coming from, she has seen it since they were kids. She tries to fight it and to help him, but both are young and are still learning not only to form their own opinions and ways of thinking, so her methods (and his) weren’t enough. At the end of the day this is a job he needs to do himself.
He dating another girl will not give him that past he has with Donna. This girl will have to be one hell of an observer and even more patient than Donna, because he was also really hurt by how things went down between him and his first love. Knowing Eric at that moment, he would probably keep comparing both girls and that’s not healthy.
Donna’s reaction to this is simple. She will be jealous, especially if things work out between Eric and his new girl. It may happen that she’ll be mean to her and everyone would notice. For this, I think Jackie would get in her side and be mean to the new girl too. While Hyde would try and talk her into understanding that she got what she wanted (freedom) and Eric what he did (a girl that may want the same as him).
I don’t see Eric getting into a relationship like Donna and Casey’s, mostly because that relationship was put to make Eric look like the only one for Donna, the only one that is good. In this case, that can be shown as him being in good terms with this girl. But eventually, I believe, his love for Donna will always win over anyone else in a romantic way.
But in case he got into a toxic relationship and he got a lapsus brutus like Donna’s in the show, that would be ugly to see. Because Eric’s worst part is horrible. He can be mean and rude, his sexism can become mysoginy and he can get– well, like when Pam appeared in season 6: unbelievable. Having Donna to reject him after, making him to go to runaway from his house for the summer with Kelso, may teach him a few things.
At the end, I think he may understand his bullshit has no justification and he needs to learn to respect Donna as a person, not only as his girlfriend and maybe future wife. As long as he can’t see her, and any other woman, as persons first, he’s lost.
This little kiss is dedicated to lixabiz, who was so patient with me during the paintchat session it was created and encouraged me to keep trying when I was about to give up and erase the whole thing :P