I really love Merrill but there are some things about her romance that i don't like. She is constantly infantilized, both by characters and the narrative. Her inexperience with people are supposed to be because she is from a different culture but it doesn't always feel like it. She ends up looking like a character who is in constant need of direction and help (which she doesn't but it comes off that way) and that creates a power imbalance in a relationship which kinda makes me uncomfortable.
Okay so keep in mind that I’ve never done her romance and I’ve only watched clips of it but
Merrill does have self-esteem issues though, regardless of the fact that she’s romanced or not. She didn’t seem to form any close relationships within her clan - she was always apart the others, because she was meant to become a Keeper. She was meant to help her people find their history and lore again, and that weighted heavy on her shoulders to the point where the only worth she sees in herself is through this, through her role as a Keeper, through claiming back her people’s lost history.
But at the same time, she’s terrified of not living up to the expectations placed on her. She tells Hawke she would have made a terrible Keeper, because she doesn’t know her clan, she doesn’t know its people, and she cannot imagine leading them. The only way she would feel worthy of being a Keeper, of being part of the clan, is to restore the eluvian. That’s why she started the whole thing, and if she dies on the way, at least she would die in a meaningful way, in trying to accomplish something for her people. She’s both trying to prove herself - to others and to herself.
Merrill doesn’t believe anyone can love her if she doesn’t accomplish some great miracle, if she doesn’t prove she’s worthy of love by proving she can be useful and help her people. And this is reflected in her romance.
The point of my post was that Merrill isn’t innocent. She isn’t naive, either. She’s also not the only LI in DA2 who’s got self-esteem issues - see Isabela. She seeks Hawke out. She has feelings for Hawke if a romance is pursued, she even goes to their house to ask if Hawke feels the same. This is something Merrill wants. And yeah, she might needs reassurances and little nudges, but so do every other LIs? So to rob her of her agency by denying her a romance that she *chooses* to pursue bothers me a lot.
I feel like fandom infantilizes Merrill way much more than the game actually does, tbqh.