“In a Relationship” – A Five Forces Analysis

Every group has that friend.  The one who meets a girl, approximately 3.7 days later the facebook status changes to “In a relationship with Blah Blah Blah” (Biz Markie would be proud) and then roughly 5.2 days following the relationship status is updated to Single.  Naturally the friend receives a fair amount of criticism for status swings that would qualify one to be bi-relationship-polar, despite some of those who criticize never enduring a “relationship” since their acceptance of facebook.  Thank goodness there’s no “In a short-term relationship” update, some have survived on The Toothbrush Theorem alone and have managed to avoid such a situation.

Nevertheless, something takes place during the approximately 5.2 days which said gentleman’s facebook status is taken.  There is a rise in female comments, a significant upward slope of “likes” by the opposite sex and even an increase in emoticon winking.  The logical assumption is these actions take place because of another variable, such as a new profile picture or an abundance of vague status postings.  But these results appear to be probabilistically independent of any additions to the profile with the exception of the updated relationship status.

Assumptions can be made, but the optimum method of determining the causation of this increase in attention would be a proper Five Forces Analysis.

Porter’s Five Forces Analysis is an examination of the competitive forces that shape an industry.  Within the context of the question why a gentleman receives increased female attention after he enters a relationship, the industry will be the gentleman’s interaction with said females.  Below is an outline of the Five Forces and how they apply.

Exhibit 1 – Five Forces Analysis of that which supposedly cannot be analyzed

Focal Point: The Gentleman

Industry: His Interaction with Females

Five Forces Analysis Components:

  1. Barriers to Entry – Ability of females to interact with the gentleman
  2. Supplier Power – Bargaining power of females currently known
  3. Buyer Power – Bargaining power of females not currently known
  4. Threat of Substitutes – Substitutes of the gentleman for said females
  5. Rivalry among Competitors – Competition among females for said gentleman’s attention

The industry revolving around the gentleman operates similarly to how any industry a business belongs to operates.  The exception within the current example is that every aspect will revolve around female interaction and often the same females will take on multiple roles such as suppliers and rivals.  Attractive industries to enter are those which have low impact on the horizontal axis, which is Supplier and Buyer Power, and high impact on the vertical axis, being Barriers to Entry, Threat of Substitutes and Intensity of Rivalry.  Below is the axis view of the current situation without the In a relationship status.

Exhibit 2 – Five Forces Analysis of “Single” Status

Supplier Power is high as the value of the gentleman is as it was and there is no reason why those that are familiar to the gentleman would have cause to value him any higher.  Buyer Power is high as the gentleman does not appear more desirable to new suitors, given the same demeanor.  Barriers to Entry remain low as nothing prevents a female, either currently known or unknown, from approaching and pursuing the gentleman.  The effect of Substitutes the gentleman has is low as well, given the gentleman’s current state as a commodity he does not provide the necessary value which cannot be replaced by another.  And the Rivalry among Competitors is low as no reason has been created for females to compete at any higher level – no sense of urgency has been created.

But when the relationship status changes, the industry dynamics surrounding the gentleman do as well.


Exhibit 3 – Five Forces Analysis of “In A Relationship” Status

Suddenly Supplier Power and Buyer Power have been mitigated.  The gentleman no longer needs to seek the company of females known, referred to as Suppliers, or Buyers, referred to as Buyers, therefore the power of both have disappeared.  The prospective of a relationship raises the Barriers to Entry, as before females had no bar to surpass but now they must be perceived as a better option than the current.  The effect of Substitutes has been raised because the gentleman has produced a value of scarcity as he no longer represents the next best option for females.  And with the new status a sense of urgency has been created, providing the possibility that the gentleman will not return to the market.  Competition among rivals for the attention of the gentleman has increased and the overall effect is positive on the gentleman.



While the impulsive nature of the relationship status update appears slightly absurd and rather amusing, there appears to be an ancillary benefit to being “In a relationship”.  Obviously the nature of this analysis does not include the moral implications of misleading for personal gain and by no means will it be encouraged.  Not to mention that if the ancillary benefit became a primary benefit then there would be an opportunity for arbitrage.  According to financial theory that opportunity cannot exist and therefore the market would adapt to the changes, removing the possibility of abusing these findings.

Suppose that means if one is in a relationship, one should truly be in a relationship.


Bernard is a regular contributor for Thursdays with Larry.  He can be reached via email here, and you can follow his occasional musings here.

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