Dear Dr. Wallace:

I’m 19, not married and have a 1-year-old son. A guy I have known for three years has been contacting me for the past four months. I haven’t seen him in person in two years even though we text each other occasionally. He keeps calling and saying he wants to marry me and adopt my son!

He has told me that he has an alcohol problem but is now getting help and will soon be alcohol-free. He says that he has always loved me, and I believe this based on our communications over the years. He’s asked for an answer on his proposal to marry me, but I don’t know how to answer him. If I don’t say yes, I’m afraid I will lose him and his friendship forever, and I don’t want that. However, I am just not feeling like I am in a position to accept his proposal right now. Help! Please give me your best advice possible because I really do like him.

— Confused,

Reno, Nevada

Dear Confused: Telling him that you’ll accept this proposal wouldn’t be wise at this time. You haven’t seen this guy for over two years, and you’re remembering him as he once was. Many things could have changed for him over the years — and for you as well. The two of you would be wise to meet and spend some time together first to get reacquainted.

Let him know you’re interested in spending some time with him and you would like to start seeing him soon. Tell him that after you do so, you’ll be in a much better position to consider his proposal. Tell him you are very flattered by his proposal, and you think so much of him that you want to get a better idea of whether he would make a suitable husband and father at this point in each of your lives. This is not only fair to you but also to him.

I realize that it must be extremely difficult to be 19 and an unmarried mother, and you probably feel overwhelmed, but that’s no reason to leap blindly into a marriage. If you move too fast and the marriage fails, you and your child will suffer much more than if you had remained single.

The cornerstone of a successful marriage is mutual love, respect and a desire for teamwork to make your union strong and long-lasting.

You won’t know if you love this guy or if he really loves you until you get to know him better in person. If he truly is the right guy, the best way for him to prove it is by showing patience with you right now.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.