@annabel: yeah, i was wondering if i shouldn't have posted a shorter intro and then launched into the bigger picture elsewhere. partly i hadn't explored the whole forum enough to realize that new to poly would be a good spot, and partly i have a tendency to blurt everything out once i've started. so perhaps i will ask to move this, or maybe post again over there.
his explanations for lying have been: because in a way it seems simpler at the time; to protect me from something potentially painful (patronizing BULLSHIT, ahem); and at some times because he has felt like it was private to his life and only of peripheral impact to mine (ie because he didn't feel it was taking anything away from me or our relationship, only adding to his experience).
why does he want to passively let me know? we talked about this the other night, but i'm not sure i can relay what he said very well. i guess he doesn't feel like he's doing anything unethical these days, feels he's following the rules of not sleeping with anyone w/out my consent, so he doesn't have any real need to volunteer info on "acceptable" activities. but at the same time, he knew that at least that one event (impulsive late-night drink with another woman the night before he was to see his former lover for the first time in months) i would be upset about... so he didn't tell me, didn't plan to tell me... but then because he's not lying either he didn't try to hide it.
it also came out in that conversation that he had been angry with me for making such a big deal over his meeting with lover. and i had asked for him to call me mid-evening to give me an update--not a 30 second "everything's fine" update but a longer, perhaps 5-10 minute conversation. more background: what originally had been planned as a couple of drinks with lover and then home to me for recap and reassurance morphed into drinks + work-related cocktail party party they had both been invited to + possibility of them having another drink or taking a walk alone after (=later night, lots of free drinks, more time spent together, and no recap/reconnection before morning). so i had gotten upset that the evening seemed to have changed from a straightforward and limited evening to something multi-phased and with very few limits. so i asked for the courtesy of a 10 minute phone call and a text to let me know when he was on his way back. this led to him feeling controlled and angry/resentful and me in return feeling like he didn't care enough to give me ANYTHING to help me feel safe except his word--and how much does that mean to me these days? he got over the phone call thing pretty quickly and then provisionally, reluctantly, agreed to it. but the week before their evening was still very tense and the script/itinerary for it undecided. so it turns out that his taking up that impulsive drink offer wasn't just innocent, opportunistic escape but also angry acting out.
rules/boundaries: thanks for those thoughts, i agree with you completely. and i've been trying very hard to talk about MY feelings and limits and boundaries rather than rules (except rules, for example, about safer sex). and even his not sleeping with other people right now is more his respecting a boundary rather than following a rule (though he may be thinking of it as a temporary rule). he knows that the potential damage of me finding out he's slept around again w/out consulting me first is far worse than the potential pleasure of it (i hope!) and he knows i'm not ready for it. but he still wants the pleasure and energy of flirting or cultivating friendships that may have "benefits" at some point, and he feels like there's no harm done in using (or minimally extending) time he's already away from me to do such. but yeah, i'm having a hard time trusting that he'll respect my boundaries when he seems to 1) disagree with them, 2) is openly frustrated with them and 3) he's not setting up such a great track record.