I’d be curious if you think it’s unethical to date someone who’s good for career purposes for a limited period of time but with whom I don’t see it working out in the long term. That is, I enjoy hanging out with him, and he’s successful in the sort of thing I want to be successful in (and he’s helping me out with that), but he’s really low empathy and generally unavailable. Being authentic and genuine is one of my core values. And ‘using’ someone is not something I’d do explicitly. But I’m finding dating him very creatively fulfilling, in that he’s inspired me to get moving on new projects and provides good feedback and connections. Another part of my brain – however dumb it sounds to me – is also freaking out because I want to have children eventually and I don’t want to waste time dating someone who isn’t right for me.
[Note: I’m using he/she pronouns here to reflect the speaker’s situation, as well as the historical legacy of sexism that often seeps into heterosexual dating.]
There’s nothing wrong with dating someone you may gain a career benefit from, assuming you genuinely also want to date him for the usual romantic reasons. Men have done it for a million years. It’s always been okay for a man to marry someone who will cook his meals, wash his clothes, take care of his children, move for his career, and in some cases even charm his boss for him (dinner parties, chatting pleasantly with the boss’s wife while the men smoke cigars).
You don’t have that option. Even if you marry a man who becomes a stay-at-home dad, you won’t get the same set of benefits that are still available to some men. I doubt your husband will also iron your shirts, you know? And even if he did, you’d probably find yourself expending effort at home to turn the gender balance back towards some semblance of traditionalism — that is, if you’re married to a stay-at-home dad, he’s not going to also expend his emotional effort to puff you up professionally. To the contrary, you might well find yourself praising his traditionally manly qualities (woodworking! heteronormative sexing!) and playing up your traditionally feminine qualities, just to keep your marriage going.
That is, I don’t think there is any circumstance in which you could get the career boost that some men get from a wife. Granted, not that many men have that. But some do. And you will definitely find yourself competing against them.
So, yeah, don’t feel bad about dating someone who might help your career.
Also, this guy? You’re enjoying dating him, he’s enjoying dating you. You don’t want to marry him, and if he wanted to marry you, he’d call more often. It sounds like you’re on the same page. Have a great time when he’s in town. There are no ethical issues here. This is just dating.
Don’t pull teeth to get him to call you. Just see other people. Immediately. I mean, start by making plans with friends and acquaintances and colleagues, meet people, express interest in other men, act single. And tell him you’re seeing other people, but NOT in an emotional way or like you’re punishing him for not being there for you. More like, “It occurred to me we never talked explicitly about whether we’re exclusive — I don’t think we are, right? Right, cool. Can’t wait to see you next month.”
You can also just say something like, “The exclusive thing doesn’t work for me with someone who isn’t in town a lot.”
Never suffer in silence! Men don’t. If you do, you’ve demoted yourself to junior partner.