I have been thinking about it recently, in light of contemporary "romance ethics".
This romance ethics basically say that sex is ok as long as you truly love the person, all else being irrelevant, and therefore it should be part of the dating process. Marriage is just another celebration of that love, socially and religious if you happen to be religious. This, of course, is the "conservative" version. The liberal version will say that sex is ok as long as all parts involved agree, for whatever reason. Marriage is just a beautiful cerimony, just another kind of party, maybe more dignified in some senses, but that it is very unfair to prohibit it to anyone who happens to desire it.
Of course, put in such generic terms, one understands how "marriage" is felt to be a "right" for any kind of love.
On top of that, traditional family arranged marriages have been substituted by "scientific" marriages, that is, one experiments with different partners until finding either the "right one", or "one that works". Depending on how cynical you have become, some people give it up completely and find there are right "moments" with each person, and each moment, after it found its natural end, should not be prolonged, but closed to give place for new "good" moments with new people and the old ones should even be remembered with gratitude.
I find this all unworthy of human dignity. And yes, I have acted under those values, but today I find myself as an ex-pagan who fully understands the horribleness of my old "gods".
My current understanding of the whole dating/sex/marriage mess under biblical guidance is that:
1) God in His providence arranges everything. For those whose vocation is to be married, God has pre-determined who the couple is meant to be;
2) We *will* meet this person;
3) God does not force His plan unto us. Just like we can miss God Himself and end up in hell, we can miss parts of His plan as well. Sure, if we are at least trying to obey Him, He will arrange so that we don't lose salvation because of that, but the way will be harsher;
4) The wrong person may not be a bad person. It's simply not the person God's providence determined.
5) The right person may have gone bad - addictions, sins, got together with the wrong person. We are specialists in finding ways to escape God's plans.
6) Experimenting or not experimenting will not help finding the right person. It's not worth it to sin against chatisty just to "check" if this or that person is the one, or worse, just for fun. Either way you lose a lot spiritually.
7) You *have* to get to know different people before getting marriage. But guess what, genital organs are not cognitive organs, they don't help getting to know anyone better. In fact, sexual involvement tends to blur our perceptions of the other person. Sexual involvement enforces the link between two people, even if this link is toxic. That is one of the reasons why it should be avoided. It can make almost anyone be felt like "the one". The cynical response to that, is to get rid of this attachment feeling, which is to basically amputate a natural thing. Sex *is* meant to create this enforcement and this attachment, only that between the couple desired by God. It's not an illusion if the person is really the one. Our "juvenile" illusions on romance are not illusions at all. They are what things were meant to be before we and/or others around us shatter yet this aspect of the nous.
8 ) A healthy romantic life would be like: getting to know people - really know, by talking, doing things together, sharing some time - until you find the person God's providence reserved for you. One "sign" is that the relation will not be troublesome in itself. Of course, there are disagreements, arguments and everything. But not all the time. Not as a means of manipulating the other. Troubles will occur to the couple, but not from the couple. Also, we will not deceive ourselves or the other in the process, either by "manipulating" our brain chemistry with sex, or by presenting or dating a "character". We have to be open to the person as the person is, even if admitting that hurts us. Maybe the person "charms" us in so many aspects, but still has some fatal character flaws that are really unacceptable. Sometimes, they are far more troubled than we can handle. We have to be *humble* that we can't handle it and let it go. Jesus is the Saviour, not us. So, avoiding all this, the next step should be taken and a religious marriage in an Orthodox Church should be celebrated.
9) If for some reason the person God chose - or we ourselves - have done something that actually prevented or destroyed the union, that is a tragedy, no different from loosing a child. Then we can trust and have faith that He is , after all, not only Saviour but also the Comforter.