The moment I knew: I thought two dates meant I was in a long-term relationship. Then we went on a third

By 31 I’d given up on finding a partner. Maybe it was the vibe I was putting out on the dating scene. After all, I assumed being asked on a second date meant I was in a long-term relationship. Even those were few and far between. A housemate of mine at the time said: “Don’t worry, Toddy, you won’t be alone for ever. My wife and I will let you live in our granny flat.” I could barely wait.

Related: The moment I knew: as he towed a stranger out of a rip, my reaction was selfish but primal

Perhaps I had my parents to blame. At that age I tended to blame them for pretty much everything. Mum met Dad at a Chubby Checker concert when she was 16 and they’d been together ever since. By the time they were my age they’d spent more than 120,000 hours together. I’d spent a total of about four hours with various dates. What chance did any prospective suitor of mine have? “Hi, I’m Todd. What are you doing in 40 years’ time?”

I watched my friends pair up. Melanie had mentioned a very funny guy at her work. It turned out he lived on my street. “You’ll have to meet him one day,” she said. “You share the same sense of humour.”

She assumed he was straight. I tried my best Columbo to see if she was wrong. “Are you attracted to him?” I asked. “Nah, Jeff’s not my type. He’s a bit hairy.” Interesting.

I didn’t realise Mel had also been singing my praises to Jeff. He was fast to put two and two together. Best male friend? Living in Sydney’s gayest suburb? Funny and single? Apparently he’d gaze up into the building Mel said I lived in, wondering which window was mine. He guessed it was the one with the huge cactus in the window. He was right.

A few months later, Mel invited me to her 30th birthday. I’d forgotten about that Jeff guy, if I’m honest. But in the courtyard of the pub this one face just kept my attention. He was a bit hairy. “Who’s that?” I asked one of Mel’s mates.

It was Jeff who found the courage to approach me. I was nervous. Wine-guzzling nervous. I kept getting his name wrong. He told me later that I made him nervous.

I asked if he was joining us at the cocktail bar after the party. I didn’t expect to see him but he came alone and we talked some more. Then he forgot my name. I liked him but I knew I was going to be single forever, right? Just ask my housemate.

But this time something wasn’t the same. It was night one and he was already asking me out on a second date. Just as Dad had asked Mum out at the bowling alley after the Chubby Checker concert in 1963.

After all those years of being single, I’d lost faith in relationships. It’s a fling, I told myself, just enjoy it however long it lasts. But it quickly became obvious Jeff was different. No game playing, just straight talking and texting when you felt like it. No prescribed “don’t appear too eager” period. I’m grumpy in the mornings and the glutton for punishment even insisted on walking me to work.

On date three we sat on a park bench watching the waves of Sydney Harbour lap the hulls of moored boats.

“I got invited to a wedding today,” he said. When? “In about three months. Will you come with me?”

Then I knew: my housemate would have to put his granny flat up for rent.