03/20/2012 at 04:30 PM EDT
Jack Wagner doesn't take his relationship with happily wed Dancing with the Stars
partner Anna Trebunskaya lightly.
"It's a mini marriage when you have a dance partner," Wagner, 52, told PEOPLE backstage after Dancing
's season 14 premiere
on Monday. "This is like a relationship. ... Anna can attest to that, having had so many dance partners."
And, like a relationship, Wagner has discovered that it's important to know how to read your partner. "We learn when to be funny and have fun, and when to be serious," he says. "You have to learn when the other person needs space. And we're learning."
But Wagner's two teenage sons, who watched their dad compete in the ballroom on Monday, aren't taking his new "relationship" too seriously.
"I saw them after [the show] and they were like, 'Hey, you forgot the cookies at the grocery store,' " Wagner says. "[They are] very unimpressed [by me being on the show]. Teenage kids don't show anything right now. We'll see what they think later."
Adds Trebunskaya, 31, "His youngest son is more excited about the fact that he's 17 and has a car now. That's what he's really excited about in life."