02/12/2009 AT 12:00 AM EST
Things are about to get serious between Julianne Hough
and her beau, country star Chuck Wicks
The real-life couple will be making a play for the mirror-ball trophy as partners on this season’s Dancing with the Stars
--and the two-time DWTS
champ isn't about to go easy on her sweetie when they hit the dancefloor.
“I might kick him in the butt a little harder than with my other partners!” Hough, 20, tells PEOPLE. “I’m definitely a ‘crack the whip’ type of person.”
It's a lesson Wicks, 29, has learned quickly. “He was like, ‘Wow, you’re really tough!’” she laughs. “But he says, ‘I don’t want you to treat me any differently than any of your other partners.’”
Though Hough admits she was initially apprehensive about dancing with her boyfriend, the potential ballroom benefits of quickstepping with Wicks ultimately won her over.
“We never get to spend much time together,” says Hough, whose foray into country music just earned
her an Academy of Country Music Award nomination for best new female artist. “On the show, we’ll be together 24 hours a day. We’re a really good team off stage, so I think it will be fun.”
And Hough already likes what she sees. “To be honest, he’s actually really good,” she says of their first practice. “He’s never really danced before … well, he told me he does a mean electric slide, but I never saw it!”
Hough admits “there are going to be who love us and who hate us,” but says she’s looking forward to the season … all the more so because another real-life couple, Jewel
and her husband rodeo star Ty Murray
, are also contestants.
“We went on tour with Jewel last year and we’re all friends,” she says of the foursome. “We’ll definitely be rooting for each other.” --Eileen Finan
See the rest of season eight’s Dancing