Part love-story and part practical advice, Commune co-founders Jeff Krasno and Schuyler Grant invite you into their world of shared businesses, three daughters, and 30 years of marriage. What does it take to keep a partnership healthy when the goal isn't work-life balance, but rather work-life integration?
Jeff: This week for Valentine's Day we have a special guest, my wife Schuyler, and we will discuss all of the secrets for a loving relationship over 31 years. And another special surprise we have Sarah Klegman our dear and accomplished producer on board to host the show and keep us on track. Hi Sarah.
Sarah: Hi everybody. Happy to be here.
Schuyler: You're kind of maybe more like a marriage therapist here.
Jeff: Alright we're on the couch.
Sarah: So you guys work together, you have a family together. So today for our listeners at home, some of them are going through similar situations.
I think we'll start with the way that you guys sort of first shaped your idea of a healthy relationship and what that looks like. So growing up did you look to anyone in your life as a model for a healthy relationship and if so, what's their story?
Schuyler: I'll speak to that quickly. We both come from parents who for different reasons had very difficult marriages.
My parents are still together actually quite happy now, but had a very fraught relationship. Jeff's parents had a very difficult and protracted divorce, and I think both of us through our experiences as children with parents who were going through a lot when we were young and in our formative years, I think we both internalized the fact that we didn't want to emulate that and that we didn't want to grow up and spend so much of our vital energy fighting with our partners. Going through the tumult that it takes to really hash it out and have a really hard partnership.
And so it's not like we don't have hard times, we've had lots of them. And we certainly do our fair share of fighting, but overall we pretty much are a team in that we want to have lots of energy to do a ton of other things and so we decided not to put our energy into having a lot of strife.
Jeff: Commitment for a lot of people denotes sacrifice and I think we've really looked at it and lived it in the exact opposite. Where our commitment to each other actually gives us a tremendous amount of freedom to go out and live our dreams, and fall on our faces, and sometimes succeed, but knowing that we can pursue those dreams with the fact that then we can always go back to each other.
So in a way that commitment has actually equaled freedom instead of something that is limiting.
In terms of the relationship that was very impactful on me was my grandparents who were together for a very, very long time and died within a few months of each other.And they really, really put family first. They made it really easy for us to be with them as much as they could.
And my Grandmother had this one thing she used to say to my Grandfather, who went to work every single day until he died.
My Grandmother used to always say in her voice, "I married you for life, but not for lunch so get out of here." And she'd kick him out the door and away he'd go to his office. But she really felt that keeping him active and engaged in his work life was extremely important and kept him alive and vital for a very long time. And I think that's true.
The thing is that we actually didn't follow her advice, we actually got married for life, but also for lunch.
Schuyler: And for lunch.
Jeff: Which is unique and has its own challenges.
Sarah: How did you two meet?
Jeff: Oh we have two different stories.
Schuyler: Yeah he was dating me before I was dating him.
Jeff: That's true.
Schuyler: But we met at Columbia University in 1980...
Schuyler: And we were freshman when we met. We met in art class and then we were sort of friends, and then friends with benefits, and then eventually we took our junior year abroad together to France. And had many adventures around Europe, and then when we came back we didn't really have University housing so we sort of fell into living together in a somewhat random way and then we just kept living together for another 30 years.
Jeff: We were in our class I will agree with that. I was not well adjusted and smoking a lot of weed, unconnected to each other. And Schuyler was heavily dancing at that point, she was always in some form of leotard.
She would always waltz into art class late and she would eat grapefruit in art class all the time. And she would sit next to me and I would sort of lean in a tiny bit and she would peel open this grapefruit and spray the grapefruit all over the place, ummm onto me. But I was sort of enamored with it and still love grapefruit.
Then I became kind of enamored with her as the dancer girl from art class and our art history teacher, I remember, had ... I think we were studying Bernini and there was this one piece, the abduction of St. Teresa and I had this some spiritual vision that she was St. Teresa and I was abducting her and then all of a sudden ... I was probably stoned, but it stuck with me as this incredibly spiritual moment, like now she has to be mine.
Sarah: So how'd you guys get engaged?
Jeff: So Schuyler was doing a play in L.A., we were living in New York, and I was all lonely over there in New York. And I was going to come out for Valentine's Day to visit her. And then I was like, you know what, I think I'm ready. I'm going to ask her to marry me on Valentine's Day, but like Schuyler is like a hippie, and she comes from a very, very alternative home and just nontraditional in every way. So, I'm like, "She's not really going to want a ring, so I'm going to try to be just different because she'll really appreciate a different approach to an engagement."
So, I went into this old jewelry shop on 6th Avenue in the West Village, and it was one of these crazy little trinket jewelry shops. And I found this beautiful, old deco locket. And I put a photo of her on one side and a photo of me on the other side. And that's what I brought with me to Los Angeles to propose.
So we were in bed and it was on Valentine's Day and the moment came, and I was like, I proposed. And I gave her the locket. She looked at it, and she opened it up, and in effect she said, "Cool. So, where's the fucking ring?”
Schuyler: Because under every hippie girl is a girl who wants a ring.
Sarah: So, when did you start working together?
Schuyler: Much later.
Jeff: I was running a music company. Down in the financial district in lower Manhattan. And then in 2001, when the World Trade Center travesty happened, we were right around there. And so, our office was closed for quite a period of time and most of those tenants left, but we stayed. But one space opened up upstairs, and Schuyler rented the space to open Kula, her first yoga studio.
And so, Schuyler then really became the muse for Wanderlust. A lot of the ideas and inspiration of it came from Kula and from trips that Schuyler was leading to Costa Rica. And Shawn and I, we started Wanderlust, we were incredibly inspired by what she had created, and we're also business people and had our business hats on in terms of how we could scale that idea.
So Schuyler provided the inspiration and the relationships and a window into the culture that essentially completely overtook my professional life.
Schuyler: From the beginning it's been together but it's also been very parallel. At that beginning point when Jeff and Shawn were working their asses off all day, every day, both running their music business and then starting up Wanderlust. I was working with them from a more creative standpoint, and I was running my own business on a parallel track.
So, it was quite porous, but it also wasn't fully enmeshed. I wasn't going to their office every day. I would pop in. But we never really worked in an office together. And that's still true.Now our professional lives are more enmeshed, but they still continue to weave in and out of each other's domains and strong suits and responsibilities, but we don't go to work every day together.
There's a fair amount of discrete work and responsibilities and interests that intersect and sometimes bump up against each other, but, for the most part, align really well.
Jeff: It helped that we had different strengths.
Sarah: I read a lot of celebrity interviews in preparation for this, of couples that work together. And one of the common things that kept coming up was this idea of the pillow talk changing to business.
What would you say are some of the biggest challenges of working together directly and indirectly?
Schuyler: There's the obvious one where you don't come home from work and then home is a respite, home is its own bubble that is its own world. Work permeates everything, and home permeates work. So if you are in a funk or you're fighting, there's stuff, there's strife that's going on in your marriage or relating to your kids, and then you have to be dealing with work stuff, then there's that problem.
But even if you come home and your partner doesn't work with you you're going to bring whatever stresses you have from work with you anyway.
I think there would be no way to get away from the leakage between work and your personal life and they're the flip sides of the same coin. You can't get the pleasure and the benefits and the riches of sharing both without getting the stresses of both, and to expect that it's ever going to be perfect, it's a compromise you have to be willing to take.
Jeff: Schuyler and I are very similar in the sense of that we've always wanted to live one life, not a life that has a bunch of separate component parts. It's never been about work/life balance, it's always been about work/life integration where work is more or less play, and there's no real boundary between friend and colleague or any of that. It's all just one life.
We live a very fluid, unified life. And that's not for everybody. But it is for us. And so, it works.
I also just think that relationships over a long period of time can just become transactional unless there are creative endeavors that you're both invested in.
Schuyler: We're complimentary, but we have very different interests and skillsets. Yeah, there's always these exactly dumb, small examples that people make about if one person loves to wash the dishes and the other person loves to dry the dishes, over a lifetime that actually has a lot of meaning.
Sarah: Yeah. What specific advice do you have for couples who currently work together or are about to start working together?
Jeff: Really establishing your own empowered lane. That's the biggest one because people want to have autonomy, they want to have imagination.. People hate to be fenced in largely because the thing the soul craves more than anything is space and the ability to expand.This is what people are always looking for in life, they're looking for space.
Again, that's one thing that would be really important to establish if you align at the very very highest creative level and then you find empowered lanes that people have autonomy and a tremendous amount of space in.
Schuyler: And on a really practical basis, I would say write everything down. All the component parts that need to be covered in order to achieve the vision and then you both take your lanes, like Jeff said, “I got this, you got that.” And then there's going to be a bunch of stuff left. Neither of you want to file taxes, who wants to go to the department of buildings to deal with the permitting?
So to get really annoyingly clear about logistically, how will call the bases get covered? And what you need to hire out for. And figure out if you can do it, because if you can't then it's going to fall part or you're going to end up fighting about all the stuff that's left undone because you haven't really covered your bases on it.
Sarah: Could you share a time when it wasn't easy, and how you got through it? Perhaps having to do with work or not.
Jeff: Because we're both busy and we both excel at what we do and umm get recognition for things that we do, in some ways it's easy just to think of like, "Okay, well, you've got it, you've got you and I got me, it's good." But there are times where I actually just need support, I'm tired. I've been out carrying what feels like the weight of the world in high pressure kinds of situations that are high pressure for me sometimes, and I need a certain sort of affection and support that she doesn't need.
Schuyler: I would say, I tend to not need as much. I'm a quite self sufficient person. I mean, I like that too, but I don't need it in the same way that he needs it, but then if he needs more TLC, I'm just totally wiped out too so it's like a big- I have to dig really deep to find that on the regular. And so that really takes me really tapping into my reserves and my highest self to be that generous.
After 30 years, you have to dig a lot deeper to continue to be the giver giver giver, especially when you're both working full time.
Sarah: Absolutely. So, if Jeff and Schuyler from 20 years ago were sitting in this room right now, what would you say to them?
Schuyler: I didn't think that Jeff was going to be nearly the incredibly impressive human that he is. I just thought he was cute and smelled nice and was very foxy and was so different than me. I was attracted to him, but I didn't really think that he had necessarily the potential that he's manifested so I would tell myself to just stick with it, you got a good one.
Sarah: Jeff, what would you say?
Jeff: I mean, I probably would have tried to find a spiritual path earlier in my life. Because you know it takes a lifetime to cultivate your higher self and to even understand what that means or how to get there. I think if I would have been able to find the teachers and the guidance earlier in life, that would've helped my path, but still, I am where I am for a reason and maybe that was just meant to be, I was just meant to find my path later.
Schuyler: I think I would say that what aligns us isn't so much a spiritual journey that we've been on together, it's more a moral journey or a ethical journey. It's us trying to figure out how do we participate in living a good life, a positive life? A life that brings pleasure to the people around us, the larger world and is decent for our kids and friends and the people who's lives we touch.
Sarah: So in honor of Valentine's Day, kind of a mushy one. What's something that you love about each other that's really small, maybe you haven't mentioned it or you haven't mentioned it recently. It could be the way they do something or something little about them.
Schuyler: I know what I would say. One of my favorite things about Jeff and he plays the piano beautifully. And he just has a way of touching things and moving his hands that's just lovely and sexy and refined and artistic and I'm blushing.
Jeff: I've always admired Schuyler's ability to not give a shit. It's something that just, I don't have. I'm constantly giving too much of a shit really about like what people think of me and wanting to be liked and that's just my ego and that's a journey that I'm dealing with, but Schuyler for some reason just has never had that. She does not base her own self worth or her own vision of who she is on what anybody else thinks. And I think that that's a very important lesson to give our children so I've always admired that.
Sarah: Well thank you both for allowing me to ask me deeply personal questions about your relationship and how you make it work.
Schuyler: Happy Valentine's Day everyone.
Sarah: We love you listeners.
Jeff: Thanks for listening to the Commune podcast. Subscribe now for new episodes every week, and learn more about our online course platform at onecommune.com.
I’m Jeff Krasno, and we’ll see you next time!