While the UNHCR promotes voluntary repatriation as the preferred solution to refugee situations, there is little understanding of variation in refugees’ preferences regarding return. We develop a theoretical framework suggesting two mechanisms influencing refugees’ preferences. First, refugees’ lived experiences in their country of origin prior to displacement and in their new host country create a trade-off in feelings of being anchored to their origin or host country. Second, firsthand exposure to traumas of war provides some refugees with a sense of competency and self-efficacy, leading them to prefer to return home. We test these relationships with data from a survey among Syrian refugees hosted in Lebanon. We find refugees exposed to violence during the war have a sense of attachment to Syria and are most likely to prefer return. Refugees who have developed a detachment from Syria or an attachment to Lebanon are less likely to prefer return.