LIKE ALL GOOD ACTION STARS, JEAN-CLAUDE Van Damme can take the messiest scenario down to essentials. Consider his breakup with fourth wife Darcy LaPier, 28, who filed for divorce Nov. 18 in L.A. "She is very jealous," says the Belgian-born Van Damme, 34, who wed the actress only 10 months ago, two years after breaking up with his third wife, bodybuilder Gladys Portugues, 37. "I always kept in touch with Gladys and our kids"—Kristopher, 7, and Bianca, 4—"and Darcy never handled that well. My kids come first."

LaPier doesn't want to talk about the divorce, and Van Damme, never departing from heroic formula—or is it the Belgian equivalent of the Gallic shrug?—deflects too-personal talk with banter. "Sure, she can hurt me," he says. "What hurts is that she's complaining that I kept her jewelry." LaPier wants back a 10-carat sapphire ring that she gave Van Damme and has also asked that the couple's prenuptial agreement be legally overturned, giving her access to half his fortune (which is growing nicely, given that his asking price per picture is up to a reported $8 million). "It's crazy how people can change," sighs Van Damme, who met LaPier three years ago, when she was married to suntan-oil magnate Ron Rice, with whom she has a daughter, Sterling, 4. She married Van Damme last February, at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, where he was scouting movie locations.

But that was zen. One source close to Van Damme, while dissing LaPier as "a gold digger," admits that the star "is an egotist and has an attention span the size of a pin. He can't stand to be alone. That's his problem." Van Damme has always happily confessed a weakness for women. (One civil lawsuit, filed in New Orleans last year by a woman who claims the actor forced her to have group sex, was settled out of court, with the woman receiving an unspecified sum.) "But what did Darcy think, that she was going to be the one to tame him?" scoffs the source, who wouldn't be surprised if Van Damme heads back to Gladys.

In fact, says Van Damme, what precipitated LaPier's divorce suit was his desire to spend Christmas with Portugues and the kids in Belgium. Van Damme intends to stick with his holiday plan. "That," he concludes, with cheerful simplicity, "is wonderful."