Any Type of Relationship: Double Duty vs. Do Unto Others
This can be confusing. I was taught to be mindful of others: how would I feel if someone said that thing to me? I became very introspective. How would I actually feel? Taking the time to calculate scenarios may have made me somewhat prescient and somewhat slow. It also left me in a void when I learned, by trial and error, that not all persons were making the same calculations. In fact, there is a whole subset of humans who rate interactions on how well you consider their needs. You know; you've dated some of them. You end up doing double duty, caring for yourself and them, or just caring for them.
It is daunting to understand HOW to take care of yourself the way you take care of others. It isn't wrong to think how our actions will make other people feel. It's an important lesson because it mitigates our natural solipsistic tendencies. But how do you add yourself to the pool of people whose feelings need to be acknowledged by you?
There may be some shame involved in thinking of your own needs first. There's also a latent fear: if I am doing an awesome job of hearing myself and being sensitive to my own needs, how can someone do that for me? If I fill the gap for myself, how will I find a partner of equal yoke? What opportunity am I leaving for a potential partner?
This math is all wrong. The gap that needs to be filled by another human is an unhealthy legend; it isn't real. Start deprogramming yourself now, if not yesterday. Taking care of yourself may change the pool of people who find you interesting, and for the better. There is no measurable limit to the amount of care you can receive from yourself or others; keep yourself healthy and happy and give someone else the opportunity to raise the bar for you.
It is admittedly an invisible line. Part of why I'm divorced is that my former husband saw no reason to take responsibility for my well-being, ever, in any form. He just had a completely different partnership model in mind, one in which I paid half the bills and he did whatever he wanted to do. He never got why I didn't see marriage his way. In retrospect, he wasn't entirely wrong but for one factor: there are sponsorship tiers.
Sponsor yourself. The first tier is the bare minimum of respect a person deserves. The second tier may include a cushier comfort level. It is my opinion that a colleague's tier should be different from and less lofty than a spousal tier - just saying I'll write it into the contract next time.
You can keep going and reach Idolatry status, either giving it to or expecting it from others, but this is never recommended. Idolatry as a concept is inaccurate, unreasonable, and a waste of resources. This means idolizing yourself or others, money, fame or anything you compulsively desire. It's not the same as thinking I'm awesome, which I am. I still have work to do and I am not flawless like an idol is perceived to be.
We humans crave connection; we crave collaboration. You have to set appropriate boundaries and you have to be clear about the level of sponsorship you are offering or expecting. You can't do the world for a person and then stand before them and say, "Now do all those things for me." It's an impossible expectation doomed to failure.
Negotiate terms. Start with the appropriate sponsorship package. Take good care of yourself, know what you need, and have a discussion with an interested party. Together you can be clear about your intentions and work out mutually beneficial terms at the best level for the situation.