In the end, I think Ming Lan’s quality of life was the worst with Gu. Yes, he loves her dearly, but he was naive about all the “in-house” politics – thinking she can do what she wants. For example. telling her she can sleep in – but duty call and she gets up early to greet her mother-in-law with Gu (a tradition as a married couple on their first day); only a few hours later is requested to again greet her mother-in-law, as well as aunts this time. Their agenda: to a shove a concubine into her household.
This proceeded with the influx of subtle attacks, such as forcing spies (I mean maids) into her household. It is already exhausting to watch… it is only the beginning.
If she had married the doctor guy, her life would have been difficult with all the katty-ness and the damsel in distress girl – Ming Lan would gain nothing and dodged a bullet. Only once she married Gu, did he understand too passive and with little resolve. Once the situation is irreversible did he show backbone and leave for a several year journeys. Had he had the guts to take charge a few months before, he could have been married to the women he loves.
In the end, I think after Qi Heng (princess) wife’s family got annihilated, his mother wholeheartedly supported his marriage of Ming Lan – especially after passing the exam. Ming Lan could really have had a wonderful life with him. Her mother-in-law would have backed off and they could potentially have a good relationship – maybe the daughter she never had? She should such joy and eagerness to propose a marriage proposal. Qi would be utterly devoted to her. She did love him.
As Gu pointed out, Qi did hesitate too much in the early days and did turn down an opportunity kidnap the princess, ect. But his mother would have been a tyrant. It’s only after a horrific and dramatic crescendo was she humbled. Without these trails, her life could have been miserable there. Gu wanted to marry her because he likes and also because he trusted that she can handle the major obstacles that come with being Mrs. GU. Where Qin just loved her for her and only wanted to marry her to be with her – no other agenda.
My vote is for and the best quality of life is with Qi.