Can You Really Learn to Like That Hateful Duty Station?


In “This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live,” Melody Warnick talks about two kinds of people – those who are “movers” and don’t want to or can’t settle down in a place and those who are “stayers.” Movers relocate frequently, and have trouble finding things to love and attach them to their location. Stayers, on the other hand, well, stay.

Military spouses are “movers.” There’s nothing we can do about that. And sometimes we live places that we simply aren’t going to ever really love. But can we teach ourselves to like them? Can we teach ourselves to find the good – even the great – in each duty station?

Warnick thinks we can. I spent about 30 minutes chatting with her about how the steps for loving where you live that she sets out in her book (which I reviewed over here) can be applied specifically to the military life. Here’s what we talked about.

SpouseBuzz: One of the challenges for “movers” is that we feel attachment to the places that we left that might get in the way of attachment to the new place. Do you have any suggestions for breaking the ties with the old to help bring in the new?

Warnick: The enemy of having a positive experience in your new town is constantly comparing it to your old town.  But the good news is that if you loved your old town, it means that you have the tools to do that again in your new town.

So there’s a couple suggestion to make it slightly easier. You don’t to entirely kick the whole place to the curb. Especially in the first few months, use those social connections you have in your old town to help you ease in … but don’t wallow in that, don’t spend all your time on social media chatting with you r old friends and don’t constantly compare those places.

In your new place do something you couldn’t do in your last town. …. Do the things that are unique to your new town and do them quickly. When you move it’s easy to get into nesting mode and never look up beyond your own walls, but to get over that feeling of ‘I do not  belong here and I’m lost and hate it’ here you really need to get  out.

Q: Is there a downside to learning to love where you live if you are going to have to move whether you like to or not? Or do you think the joy you get from loving it for a time offsets any sadness later?

A: That’s kind of true of everything in your life. It’s sort of like saying ‘I don’t want to have kids because I’d love them too much and if something happens it’ll be sad,’ or ‘I don’t want to make friends because when I move ill be sad.’

Whenever you are, just live your life there, don’t hold back or reserve yourself emotionally or keep yourself from investing …  he truth is you don’t know how long you’ll be there and it could be awhile.

Q: If a reader was going to take on only one of the tasks you lay out in your book, which would you recommend?

A: The black-ops version that isn’t actually in the book.  I am going to say play ‘Pokemon Go!’ Here’s why: it’s the cheater answer to your question because it combines a lot of things I recommend doing in the book into one.

It forces you to walk, you can’t play the game without walking. It forces you to explore your town and because most of the places you catch pokemon are the coolest spots, it gets you out into your community. It’s also weirdly social … When you’re playing it and you’re looking around and other people are playing it too, you tend to start these conversations with people and when you’re new to a place. It’s kind of a good short cut way to have a good experience in your town, which is what you want in the beginning.

Q: Do you think it’s possible to do these things and still simply not like where you live or have it not impact your attitude about it?

A: It would be pretty egotistical for me to say ‘If you do everything you are 100 percent guaranteed to love your town.’ I think sometimes there’s such a bad mismatch between you and your values and personality and the place you live it could be really difficult to feel happy there and especially feel attached.

On the other hand I have come to feel that places are what we think they are. Every place in the world has its fans and its detractors -- people who adore the place and people who cannot wait to leave. If you genuinely put the things in the book to the test, you may not feel like ‘this is where I want to live the rest of my days,’ but I’m confident it will help you feel better about where you live.

It’s an exercise in positive thinking – it forces you to examine your assumptions about where you are. I think that process of discovery will make you feel happier and more emotionally connected to where you live.

Q: Do you have any advice specifically for military spouses who are never going to get to be people who stay?

A: Enjoy it, embrace your town as much as you can for as long as your there. There are some things that are great about moving around. You get to experience these places and you get to see them fresh. …

You don’t get to the point where you are so sick of this town, and it kind of gives you a little freedom to maybe not take the bad things about the town so seriously. You know you’re not going to be there for ever so you can just enjoy it while you’re there.

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