Even for Real Housewives, Adoption Search Is a Reality

Early photo of Lisa Vanderpump and Max

Early photo of Lisa and Max;
Source: Twitter.com/lisavanderpump

OK world, I am admitting it. I watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Bravo and I enjoy it. It’s a nice mindless way for me to relax and disconnect for an hour. I would never typically write about this show on the BPAR blog, but this week my work and personal worlds collided. Lisa Vanderpump, a star of the show, is an adoptive mother, and over the past few seasons and the most recent episode, she has brought to light some of the most common feelings that arise in post adoption.

Lisa and Ken adopted Max through foster care when he was an infant. They have an older daughter, Pandora, by birth but felt strongly that they wanted to adopt a child into their family. Over the past few years her son Max, who is now 24, has been interested in exploring his birth family. Lisa has expressed apprehension and worry about Max’s desire to search. She talks about feeling threatened that Max’s birth family will somehow replace his adoptive family. She also feels protective of Max, worried that he might be disappointed or hurt if his fantasy of his birth family doesn’t match his expectations. Pandora gets emotional at the thought of Max searching – saying that he is “ours.” Lisa reassures Pandora that he will always be a part of the family and encourages Pandora to be open and supportive to Max’s needs. https://www.bravotv.com/the-real-housewives-of-beverly-hills/blogs/lisa-vanderpump/lisa-vanderpump-i-support-maxs-curiosity

So many of the feelings that come up for the Vanderpump family parallel the feelings we encounter in the families we help at BPAR. Max’s questions and desire to search is such a common occurrence for adoptees, especially at his age. As he is entering his late adolescence and young adulthood, he is forming his identity – and for him a big part of that is figuring out his past and his birth family.  He has to provide reassurance to his adoptive parents that he will still love them and that they are his parents. Although they don’t get into it on the show, Lisa is worried about how Max will react to the information he finds. It is very common for adoptees to have fantasies about their birth family, and it’s important to explore those fantasies before embarking on the search process.

Lisa’s feelings of fear and worry are very common and normal. Many of the parents we work with fear that their kids will leave them for their birth families. Lisa was able to logically and rationally explain why she knew this probably would not occur and why it’s important to support her son in this process.  But emotionally, it’s a different story. As Max explores his information, she is sent right back to that place of fear.

Post adoption challenges can impact anyone in the adoption community. It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are or where you live – the thoughts and feelings involved are real and are present. Lisa and Max’s story help bring this to light. Hopefully anyone who happens to watch will be able to take this message away and begin to understand the importance of post adoption support.

About Kelly DiBenedetto, LMHC, ATR

Kelly DiBenedetto, LMHC, ATR is Clinical Director at Boston Post Adoption Resources. To read her bio, please visit BPAR's Team page.