Would Elise have agreed to date Nick without the Mistletoe Promise?
Elise would never have said yes to a first date with someone as handsome and successful as Nick because she would never have believed herself worthy of him, or of the happiness that might result in their relationship. She would believe him more suited to pretty girls like her co-worker Zoey, lacking the confidence to see herself in the same league of Zoey's appearance or personality. Elise would also shy away from potential happiness fearing the pain of it being snatched away if Nick ever found out about her daughter's death. The contract between them makes sense to Elise far more than any attraction to her on Nick's part ever would.
Aside from the men in her life who have been abusive, which other people has Elise surrounded herself with that also support her belief that she does not deserve to be loved?
Elise's mother stood by and watched her father's emotional and physical abuse of her which Elise saw as tacit approval of his actions. By enabling him to continue to treat Elise this way, her mother condoned the abuse. As an adult, Elise's best friend had an affair with Elise's husband which not only condoned his emotional abuse and his cheating but also seemed to illustrate that since Dan managed to treat her with dignity, his inability to treat his wide with similar respect must be due to Elise and not to him, another piece of "evidence" for Elise to use to prove to herself that she did not deserve any better.
Was it cowardly of Nick to hide behind the Mistletoe Promise instead of directly asking her out on a date?
In some ways hiding behind a dating contract could be seen as cowardly as Nick was deliberately avoiding opening himself up to the possibility of rejection which most people have to do if they are interested in developing a relationship with someone. However, it is also understandable that he wants to see if they actually get along well and are a good fit in a relationship before he risks letting her get to know him, secrets and all. He is also aware of Elise's past and is safe in assuming that she would be as reluctant to open up about her daughter as he is to open up about the accident he caused and in that way is also rather gallantly enabling her to try being in a relationship with someone she typically would not even think was interested in her. Rather than hiding behind the contract Nick is ingeniously devising a way in which they can get to know each other without the fear of rejection that would probably paralyze them in the format of a "normal", boy-meets-girl type of relationship.
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