Inspired by Clara’s advice, Paul realizes that he must go back to Miriam. He reflects that the problems between the two of them may have been caused by the lack of sexuality in their relationship. He feels no aversion to her; rather, he feels that his desire for her has been overwhelmed by his stronger shyness and virginity.
He begins to spend more time with Miriam again, much to the dismay of his mother. One day he begins a serious discussion with her about marriage, and asks her if she thinks they have been “too fierce” in their purity toward each other. He tells her that he loves her, that he has been obstinate, and he kisses her. On their way home, he asks her (not in so many words) if she will sleep with him, and she tells him that she will, but not now.
Miriam feels that her submission to Paul will be a sacrifice, and it is a sacrifice she is willing to make for him. He begins to treat his relationship with her as a romantic relationship. One evening they go into the woods and “she relinquished herself to him,” but with some horror and with her soul somewhat apart.
Miriam goes to stay at her grandmother’s cottage, and Paul visits her often. One holiday he goes to spend the whole day with her. She prepares dinner, for that day they feel as though they live together in that cottage. They take a walk outside after dinner, and then come back inside and make love. Paul feels that he is sacrificing Miriam and that she is allowing herself to be sacrificed because she loves him so much.
During the next week, he asks her why she is so hesitant toward him, and she replies that she feels it is not quite right because they are not married. He tells her that he would like to marry her, but she feels they are too young. He begins to feel a sense of failure and to draw somewhat away from Miriam again. He begins to spend more time with his men friends and also once again with Clara.
Paul tells his mother that he will break off with Miriam, because he does not love her and does not want to marry her. She is somewhat surprised, and encourages him to do whatever he thinks is best. He goes to Miriam and tells her they should break off because he does not want to marry. She is upset, tells him he is a child of four, and tells him that she knew all along that it would not work out between them. This upsets Paul and he begins to feel that she has deceived him, she had only pretended to love him. They part, each full of bitterness.