Praise be to Allah.
We put this question to our shaykh, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahmaan al-Barraak, who responded as follows:
Yes, the relationship between them is that of husband and wife. So long as he does not divorce her, she is his wife. The marital contract is not cancelled by a lack of love between the spouses or by whatever disputes and differences there may be between them. It can only be cancelled if her husband divorces her or the marriage is annulled. Both partners should fear Allaah, and the husband should treat his wife decently. If he dislikes her, he should either keep her and treat her decently, or let her go in a proper manner. The wife should fear Allaah, give her husband his rights, put up with his bad treatment and obey him in things that are good and proper. And Allaah knows best.
With regard to the ruling on the case of a wife refusing her husband’s call to his bed, see Question # 2006.